Sham Shui Po race keeps ADPL candidates on toes
The city's oldest pan-democratic group faces a make-or-break battle in Sunday's district council elections in Sham Shui Po, as internal rivalry threatens to split the democrat vote.
Known for its rundown buildings, low-income earners and elderly population, Sham Shui Po has been a stronghold of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL) since the early 1990s. Nine of the ADPL's 16 incumbent district councillors are in the district, and 14 of its 26 candidates in Sunday's election are running there.
But there is a new threat in this year's elections: People Power, the radical pan-democratic group that wants to punish the ADPL for supporting the government's electoral reform package for the 2012 elections. Half the ADPL's candidates in the district are being challenged by opponents from People Power.
The threat is particularly clear in Lai Kok constituency, where People Power's Chiu Chik-tung is taking on Frederick Fung Kin-kee, an incumbent district councillor and the ADPL's only lawmaker. In the 2007 district council poll, Fung won by a razor-thin margin of 85 votes over Fan Kwok-fai of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB).
Fan is trying to stage a comeback this year, and Fung says it is easy to see a scenario where Chiu's challenge will split the pro-democrat vote and give victory to Fan.
'It won't be a surprise if Chiu woos the support of 80 or even 100 voters who usually support candidates from the pan-democratic camp,' he said. 'Fan is set to benefit from this scenario while it will put me in a difficult situation.'
ADPL chairman Bruce Liu Sing-lee said according to the group's internal assessments, Lai Kok was one of several constituencies where the prospect was grim for their candidates. 'Frederick Fung could be defeated under the dual challenges from Fan and Chiu,' Liu said.
Liu is expecting half of the ADPL's 26 candidates across the city to win seats on Sunday.
Fung said Fan had the advantage of a strong grass-roots network and abundant manpower. 'We can't compete with him in offering gifts to constituency residents,' he said.
Fan was unavailable for interviews because he was busy meeting voters, his campaign manager said.
Chiu, a legal clerk, said his participation created an option for voters who supported the pan-democratic camp but had not bothered to vote in previous elections. 'I believe many people didn't vote in past elections because they were unhappy having only one pan-democratic candidate running in a constituency,' he said.
Chung Wing-yuen, a non-affiliated candidate, is also contesting the seat in Lai Kok.
How the fight shapes up
Number of constituencies: 21
Number of candidates: 56
Number of voters: 168,206
Estimated population: 376,258
Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood: 14
Democratic Party: 1
People Power: 9
League of Social Democrats: 1
Civic Party: 3
Liberal Party: 1
Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions: 1