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Legislative Council elections 2016

Hong Kong localist election candidates mount funding campaigns to keep donors anonymous

The move allows any donor who gives HK$1,000 or less to withhold their name; candidates say they manage to raise substantial sums through crowdfunding

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2016, 9:23pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2016, 11:18pm

Hong Kong’s localists are protecting the identities of their campaign donors for next month’s Legislative Council elections by urging each donation be kept under the HK$1,000 threshold.

Any donor who gives more than HK$1,000 must reveal his or her name and address. So the magic number now is 999.

By asking supporters to donate no more than HK$999 at a time, localist candidates, who have modest means, not only avoid dealing with funding declarations but also finance campaigns through crowdfunding.

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While the move could deepen the suspicions of those in power towards localists, a political scientist argues the exemption for small donations is “normal” in democratic countries and protects ordinary citizens’ freedom to participate in politics.

Lau Siu-lai, a university lecturer running in Kowloon West and one of those hopefuls who have made the “HK$999” appeal, said on Wednesday she had almost met her target of raising HK$300,000 for her campaign.

Ninety-five per cent of her donors have given HK$999, said Lau, who first shot to fame during the Occupy protests in 2014 when she gave lectures on democracy to participants.

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“Many of my supporters have businesses on the mainland. They worried they could run into trouble if they donated to me,” Lau told the Post. “They feel more comfortable giving HK$999 so they don’t need to put down their names.”

Lau advocates a “very high” degree of autonomy for Hong Kong and the protection of local culture, including hawkers’ rights.

Hong Kong Indigenous, which is raising funds for Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang in his bid to win a seat in New Territories East, had met half of its HK$200,000 target through a similar “HK$999” drive in less than two weeks, said spokesman Ray Wong Toi-yeung.

Leung is running “on behalf of” Edward Leung Tin-kei of Wong’s group, who was disqualified due to his advocacy of independence.

Another localist hopeful, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who is running in New Territories West, has raised HK$849,000 in 23 days.

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Chu, who became active in a campaign to save Queen’s Pier a decade ago, said he wanted to promote a new political culture with the crowd-funding initiative.

“I took the HK$999 idea from a friend. It is eye-catching and conveys a sense of emergency, telling voters I need your support to run,” he said.

Chung Kim-wah, a political commentator at the Polytechnic University, said it was possible pro-Beijing forces would want to find out who supports the localists, given sensitivity over calls for Hong Kong independence.

Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said the disclosure rule exempting small donations was “reasonable” and common in democratic countries like the United States, where public donation is seen as a way for ordinary people to participate in politics.

“If people are required to fill in a form even if they donate just several tens of dollars, they will be discouraged from donating,” he said, adding that the donation limit was meant to prevent people from trying to manipulate politicians by giving large sums of money.

For a full list of candidates, please see http://multimedia.scmp.com/legcocandidates/