In Hong Kong’s poorest constituency, pro-Beijing lawyer again looks to win Legco seat at expense of divided rivals
With the four main parties on course to regain a seat each in Kowloon East, Paul Tse is up against six pan-democrats and localists for the last slot
Kowloon East is probably the most predictable battlefield among the five geographical constituencies in the Legislative Council elections.
Vying for the five seats are 12 lists of candidates, of whom eight are pro-democracy and four pro-establishment.
It is expected that each camp will, as in the past, safely win two seats each, leaving the question as to who will take the fifth and last seat – a pro-Beijing lawyer incumbent or a controversial localist?
Kowloon East is arguably the poorest constituency among the five, with 87 per cent of the population living in public rental housing.
According to census data in 2011, the median household monthly income in Kwun Tong district stood at HK$15,960, the lowest among the 18 districts in the city. Wong Tai Sin, the other component forming Kowloon East, was third lowest with a median of HK$17,000.
Arising from the neighbourhood are a host of livelihood issues, including the redevelopment of Kwun Tong town centre and a shortage of hospital beds to cope with the ageing population.
The four major parties – the Democrats and Civic Party of the pan-democratic camp on one hand, and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and Federation of Trade Unions of the pro-Beijing camp on the other – have been able to take one seat each previously.
The two camps gained the same 30 per cent vote share in the last election in 2012. The fifth seat was taken by lawyer Paul Tse Wai-chun, a pro-Beijing independent, after a tight race.
Tse won because on the other side three pan-democratic radical candidates – League of Social Democrats’ Andrew To Kwan-hang, People Power’s Wong Yeung-tat and independent Mandy Tam Heung-man – were competing among themselves.
The three radicals combined bagged 69,301 votes in total, or 24 per cent of the votes, compared to Tse’s 38,546 votes, which was 13.5 per cent.
Critics then said if such competition had been avoided, they would not have handed victory to Tse.
This time round, Tse – dubbed “godson of Western District” in political circles due to his close ties with Beijing’s liaison office located there – is again seen to have the upper hand on the fifth seat.
While the four major parties are expected to keep their seats, contesting the last seat with Tse are six pan-democrats and localists.
While Tam and Wong are back, entering the scene is the Labour Party’s chairwoman, Suzanne Wu Sui-shan, independence advocate Chan Chak-to, People Power’s Tam Tak-chi and former Democrat Lui Wing-kei.
It is expected that the even keener competition on the pan-democratic and localist side could further dilute the vote share of each of the candidates.
Two polls, by the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme and by Hong Kong Research Association, have shown Tse could again enjoy a marginal victory, closely followed by Wong.