Hong Kong’s pan-democrats back on the campaign trail but still divided on how they can shape the chief executive election
In 2012 ago the camp won 205 seats on the committee that selects the city’s leader; this time they are aiming at over 300 – but how will they use those votes?
Pan-democrats are playing aggressive this time in scrambling for seats on the committee that will pick the city’s new leader in March – yet they are caught between a rock and a hard place on how to use their votes.
With the nomination period for the 1,200-member Election Committee opening on Tuesday, a group of pan-democratic professionals and activists have formed an alliance called “Democrats 300+”, aiming to grab more than 300 seats. The bloc and its allies won 205 seats in the 2011 poll for the chance to vote for the chief executive in 2012.
The committee that selects the city’s chief executive comprises business, professional, social and political sectors. A chief executive contender needs 150 votes to qualify and 601 to secure victory.
While a number of professional sectors, such as legal, social welfare and education, have always been pan-democrat strongholds, the bloc never fielded enough candidates in the past to contest all sectors, some of which are returned by individual rather than corporate voters.
In 2011 only five pan-democrats ran in the 30-strong medical sector, with two returned. That situation has now changed.
“We have fielded at least 100 candidates more this year compared to what we did in the last poll,” said accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung, of the Professionals Guild, which is helping to coordinate the camp’s efforts.
“Many professionals believe they have a responsibility to stand up to voice against the ‘power’ which is destroying the core values and existing systems of Hong Kong.”
Nineteen liberal-minded doctors, including Dr Au Yiu-kai, who led Occupy Central’s medical team in 2014, and Dr Wong Yam-hong of the pro-democracy group Médecins Inspirés have formed a platform to run in the medical sector.
One major pledge of the group is to fight for genuine universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
They are up against their more senior counterparts, an alliance formed by seven doctors mostly from the private sector, who have not included universal suffrage in their platform. These include private orthopaedic surgeon Dr David Fang Jin-sheng, brother of ex-chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang and a former head of the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine.
While the group did not rule out the possibility of nominating Leung Chun-ying for another term, it admitted the city had deteriorated in many ways under Leung’s rule over past four years.
The pan-democratic camp also plans to field two teams – more than 20 candidates –to contest the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sector, which was the stronghold of Leung, a surveyor before he became chief executive by winning 689 votes in 2012.
The incumbent leader in 2012 had pocketed 25 nominations from the 30-member sector, in which only one pan-democrat was returned.
In a surprise result in the Legislative Council elections in September, pan-democrat Edward Yiu Chung-yim won in the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency, taking a seat previously held by pro-government lawmakers.
The pro-democracy camp was also attempting to open a new battlefront by fielding 15 people, including Wan Chai district councillor Clarisse Yeung Suet-ying, in the culture subsector, an area in which they have never run before.
While the pan-democrats are expected to achieve a better performance this year following satisfactory results in the Legco polls, they remain heavily split on how they should make use of their votes in the chief executive race – especially as they have no plan to put forward a candidate for the top job this time.
Some camp members strongly believe they should make full use of their votes by opting for the lesser of two evils – such as Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who is tipped to run – in a bid to unseat Leung Chun-ying, but many are not comfortable with such a “king-making fantasy”.
Dr Petula Ho Sik-ying, a social work academic at the University of Hong Kong who is leading a 12-member team of scholars to run in the higher education sector, advocated a blank vote campaign to discredit what she called a “small-circle election”.
“Many pro-democracy activists believe they would indeed make a difference with their votes in the chief executive poll and argue we would be giving Leung Chun-ying a hand if we indeed cast a blank vote in the election, but that is not true,” she said, adding that only Beijing had a say on the incumbent’s fate under the system.
“Our team wants to lower the legitimacy of whoever is elected … the pro-democracy camp should not vote in a way as if it is a genuine democratic election.”
Kenneth Leung admitted it would be difficult for all pro-democracy Election Committee members to adopt the same stance when they voted in March.
“But at the moment, I think the camp should focus on the campaign and grab as many seats as we can in the Election Committee first,” he said.
He said retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, the first to throw his hat into the ring for the top job, will meet the Professionals Guild on Thursday.
An alliance of 19 engineers including the Civic Party’s Albert Lai Kwong-tak, who announced their bid on Monday, said they would go for “anyone but CY[Leung]”, and back a candidate who defended fairness in Hong Kong.
The Election Committee polls take place on December 11.