Hong Kong's pan-dems face uphill fight to retain Legco super seats amid strategic competition in district councils
With district council wins serving as entry tickets to the all-important race for Legco's super seats, the competition is stiff for Sunday's polls
Whether pan-democrats can keep three out of the five so-called "super seats" in the Legislative Council election next year will hinge on the results of this Sunday's district council elections, in which the camp is finding itself in an uphill battle.
A district council seat is an entry ticket to the race for the super seats, as a candidate must first become a district councillor before he or she can run to represent one of the super seats, which are elected through a poll of the 3.2 million voters not eligible to vote in any of the trade-based functional constituencies. With a larger electorate spread over a broader cross-section of the population, the seats have been labelled "super" because their holders can command a bigger mandate than other lawmakers.
With the pro-Beijing camp seeking to demolish the pan-democrats' all-important hold on one-third of the seats in Legco, which enabled them to vote down the government's electoral reform package in June, it is critical for the pan-democrats to hold on to the three super seats.
Frederick Fung Kin-kee, an incumbent super-seat legislator, said he faces a huge challenge in his bid to stay in his district council seat in Sham Shui Po's Lai Kok constituency, which he has occupied since 2003.
The veteran from the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood is being challenged by an unexpected rival - Wong Chung-ki - a former colleague in the party who has returned after quitting politics a decade ago to become a businessman.
Wong's entry into the fray will likely split the vote in the constituency and hand Fung an even tougher task in his battle for the seat with Chan Wing-yan, who is backed by both the Federation of Trade Unions and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
"If Wong can grab 300 votes from me, I could lose," Fung said, suspecting Wong's motive was to divert his votes to help the pro-establishment candidate win.
Residents have awarded Chan, 25, the nickname "the flea catcher" after she arranged for pest removal services for residents in run-down public flats.
James To Kun-sun, another pan-democrat holding a super seat, is seeking to stay on in Yau Tsim Mong's Olympic. He is being challenged by Patrick Ko Hiu-wing, a self-proclaimed "independent" who is a member of the Chongqing chapter of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
"Ko keeps a very low profile," To, a Democratic Party member, said of the 43-year-old company director. "But I won't underestimate the forces behind him mobilising voter support."
His constituency is one of those that have seen the highest growth in the size of the electorate since the last election, having risen by 30 per cent. The expansion has made the fight unpredictable, he said.
The Democratic Party has been looking to its younger generation to field someone to take over the super seat held by veteran Albert Ho Chun-yan next year as he has decided to step away from Legco.
Party vice-chairman Lo Kin-hei is one choice.
But Lo, like many Democrats, is also in an intense battle of his own, with three rivals - Civic Passion's Timothy Tsoi Man-lung, the DAB's Pang Siu-kei and independent Tang Ka-lok.
"It is obvious the pro-Beijing camp is using all means to wipe out any pan-democrats who are well known among Hongkongers and are able to contest a super seat," Lo said.