Hong Kong votes for new legislature

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/5 2:03:39

At a turnout rate higher than 50 percent, the results of voting to elect 70 members of Hong Kong's legislative body for a new 4-year term are expected Monday after ballots were cast Sunday.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying votes at a polling station in Sunday's election for the region's Legislative Council. Polls opened Sunday morning for the specially administered Chinese city's most crucial election since its handover from Britain in 1997. The vote is also the first since 2014 pro-democracy street protests rocked the Asian financial hub. Photo: AP

The election, which attracted the highest number of voters since the handover of Hong Kong in 1997, is seen as a significant test of whether the pro-establishment camp can maintain its dominant status in the Legislative Council (LegCo) after being challenged by pro-independence campaigners.

In the "Occupy Central" campaigns in Hong Kong in 2014, residents staged mass sit-ins to bargain for their demand that candidates in the 2017 election for Hong Kong chief executive be selected through public nomination.

"The situation is highly unoptimistic for pro-establishment [groups], especially for the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong [DAB]," Choy So-yuk, a former legislator and member of the DAB - a major pro-establishment party in Hong Kong - told the Global Times on Sunday.

Political reform to elect the next Hong Kong chief executive by referendum in 2017 was already stalled following strong opposition by some pan-democratic activists in the past two years, who demanded easier access to becoming a candidate. But the central government is determined to bar from office those who have expressed sympathies for seeking independence or defying Hong Kong's Basic Law.

Rise in registered voters

According to the official website of the 2016 LegCo election, 3,779,085 people registered to vote in the election compared to 3,466,201 in 2012 and 3,372,007 in 2008, clearly showing that the rate of participation is increasing. A total of 1,986,544 Hong Kongers had already cast their ballots by 9:30 pm on Sunday, a voter turnout rate of 52.57 percent, with polls due to close at 10:30 pm.

Echoing Choy, Tian Feilong, assistant professor at Beijing-based Beihang University, told the Global Times on Sunday that a group of young people born in the year of the handover and called the "97 generation" have now reached the legal voting age of 18. These voters will impact the result of the election significantly, he estimated.

The "97 generation" is facing more challenges when they leave school to start their career amid an economic situation that is worse than any their parents weathered, so they hold a more negative attitude toward the government, Tian explained.

They are therefore easily attracted to the anti-establishment camp, he said.

Campaign strategy problems

The pro-establishment camp also suffers from internal problems, Choy said, citing its ineffective campaign organization as an example.

The DAB has almost no volunteers to help in the election, while other pro-establishment groups such as the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions have so many volunteers that they do not even know how to use them, Choy said. "We are wasting manpower within the camp."

According to Choy, the anti-establishment camp encouraged numerous members to apply for candidacy at the very beginning to increase the pro-democracy base and persuaded fewer promising candidates to give up during the election, in a bid to guarantee that promising candidates get enough votes.

The pro-establishment camp has much less experience in campaign organization, Choy said.

"The anti-establishment camp also resorted to social networking and telephone [campaigning] to slander us among the voters, but we can do nothing to stop them," she explained.

More importantly, local media like the Apple Daily, which takes a vehement anti-mainland stance, helped the anti-establishment camp garner as many votes as possible, Choy said.

"The media specifically told voters which candidates still needed votes or already had enough votes, so the candidates wouldn't waste votes to maximize seats so the pan-democracy group could obtain a majority in the LegCo."

"The pro-establishment camp, however, has no such kind of support from media," she noted.

Choy said the pro-establishment camp has  also struggled to understand the unscientific vote distribution.

Posted in: HK/Macao/Taiwan

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