Hong Kong Legislative Council polls: voters change the city’s political landscape
Hongkongers choose a new breed of localists and younger faces for the Legislative Council, taking politics and governance of the city into uncharted waters
Hong Kong’s voters have signalled a strong demand for political change and a say in the city’s future, installing in the legislature a new generation of activists who cut their teeth on the 2014 Occupy protests, and sidelining veteran pan-democrats who disappointed them.
As the results of Sunday’s Legislative Council elections, some of them down to wire, were announced on Monday, it was clear that a more fractured legislature, with new faces raring to challenge the old order, was ready to shape the next four years of politics.
Six localists were among those voted into office in the first general election since the mass protests of two years ago.
A record 2.2 million people, or 58 per cent of the electorate, came out to vote in the most critical legislative polls since the handover – the highest turnout since direct elections were first introduced in 1991.
The biggest winner was social and political activist Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, crowned the “king of votes” with 84,000.
Localists and pan-democrats combined won 30 of 70 seats, allowing the de facto opposition camp to retain its critical minority of 24 seats needed to block constitutional changes.
They grabbed 1.19 million votes (55 per cent) – more than in 2012, when they won 27 seats.
The pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong was the biggest party winner with seven seats in the geographical constituencies.
Beijing noted the new faces in Legco, with a government body under the State Council warning them against advocating Hong Kong’s separation from China.
The changed landscape reflected voters’ discontent with the political status quo and their willingness to give new faces a chance, Chinese University political scientist Professor Ma Ngok said.
Two members of pro-independence group Youngspiration, Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, won seats. The relatively unknown Yau unseated radical lawmaker Wong Yuk-man, a veteran anti-establishment figure.
Yau said yesterday that one of her priorities was to push for a “self-determination movement for Hong Kong’s political future”.
“We believe that sovereignty should be in the hands of the people, which will help to solve livelihood issues,” she said.
“We should have the right to discuss this.”
Occupy student leader Nathan Law Kwun-chung and social activist and university lecturer Lau Siu-lai won in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon West. Civic Passion member Cheng Chung-tai, also an advocate of self-determination, secured a seat in New Territories West.
Pro-establishment lawmakers cautioned that the newly elected localists could escalate their call for independence to a whole new political level.
Last night, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council warned against pro-independence activities by the new lawmakers.
“We resolutely oppose any form of activities for ‘Hong Kong independence’ in and out of Legco, and resolutely support the HKSAR government in punishing [offenders] according to law,” an office spokesman told the official Xinhua news agency.
Commentators expect Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to find it even more difficult pushing his policies through before his first term expires next year.
That is not just because the localist camp adds a new dimension to the traditional binary of the pro-establishment and pan-democrats, but also because lobbying can be problematic with all three blocs featuring new faces with few leadership credentials.
The chief executive issued a statement pledging to “endeavour to enhance communication and cooperation” with the new legislators.
Speculation over the possibility of Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah running for chief executive arose again with the revelation that President Xi Jinping stopped at his table during a G20 dinner in Hangzhou on Sunday night and chatted with him.