Pro-democracy camp takes record quarter of seats on Election Committee that will choose Hong Kong’s leader

Group led by Occupy Central co-founders seizes all the seats in the higher education subsector, while big wins also seen in legal, IT, health, welfare and architectural subsectors

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 December, 2016, 10:51am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 December, 2016, 5:38pm

The city’s democratic camp has seized a record quarter of the seats in the committee that will go on to pick Hong Kong’s next leader in March.

A group led by Occupy Central co-founders has taken all the seats in the higher education subsector, one of six subsectors in which pro-democracy candidates won all the seats.

Pan-democratic candidates also won landslide victories in the accountancy and architectural subsectors, and secured at least half of the seats in the engineering and medical subsectors.

Clean sweeps were seen in the legal, education, higher education, health services, IT and welfare subsectors.

But business sectors such as hotels, tourism and commerce continued to be dominated by pro-establishment forces and tycoons.

The higher education subsector saw Academics in Support of Democracy, led by Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Chan Kin-man, take all 30 seats, up from 24 in the last election in 2011.

The health services subsector, likewise, had all its 30 seats filled by Health Professionals for Democracy 30, a group which won only nine seats in 2011.

Pan-democrats seized 326 of the 1,194 seats on the committee. Seat holders who nominated Leung Chun-ying in the last chief executive election held on to 152 seats. Some are likely to back Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who has said she is considering a run at the top job.

Some 220 who supported Henry Tang Ying-yen, Leung’s rival in the 2012 election, were returned. Winners who had not indicated a clear stance on who they would support amounted to 470.

Lit Ming-wai, of Health Professionals For Democracy 30, said it was a big surprise for the pro-democracy group to win all 30 seats in the subsector. Only nine pan-democrats or allies won in the 2011 polls.

“It reflects that the Election Committee poll is more than just an election, but is a fight to safeguard our core values,” she said. “If chief executive aspirants want to take our votes, they must incorporate our calls for democratic political reform in their manifesto.”

Camille Lam Tsz-kwan, of the group CoVision16, said victory by pan-democrats in the architectural subsector reflected its strong support for democracy.

“The sector was not hotly contested before and the pro-establishment camp used to take the seats,” she said. “But now we know there are actually a lot of pro-democracy voters in the field.”

A key advocate of the so-called “ABC” – Anyone But CY Leung – campaign, Liberal Party co-founder James Tien Pei-chun, along with his mentee Joseph Chan Ho-lim, emerged as big vote winners in the commercial sector, each bagging more than 400 votes from corporate electors. Their victories came despite the fact incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying already announced on Friday he would not seek re-election.

A record turnout of 46 per cent and a record number of voters at 107,000 out of a possible 230,000 cast their ballots on Sunday to fill 733 seats on the 1,194-member committee.

The remaining 461 seats have either been returned uncontested or are held by ex officio members such as lawmakers in the Legislative Council.

The earliest results were for the hotels subsector, which is dominated by property developers. Among the 17 winners were Gary Harilela, director of Harilela Hotels, Lui Che-woo, founder of K. Wah Group, and second-generation tycoons including Sino Land’s Daryl Ng Win-kong, Hopewell Holdings’ Thomas Wu, and Henderson Land Development’s Martin Lee Ka-shing.

In the performing arts subsector, a pro-democracy filmmaker was for the first time elected to the traditionally conservative body.

Derek Yee Tung-sing emerged as the only candidate from a pro-democracy eight-member list to secure a seat in the 15-seat performing arts subsector, which has always been monopolised by conservative pro-establishment forces.

I am a little bit surprised. It is a big step for us
Felix Chong Man-keung

The remaining 14 seats in the subsector were grabbed by the Hong Kong Motion Picture Industry Association led by Beijing-friendly Crucindo Hung Cho-sing.

Director Felix Chong Man-keung, who was on the list with Yee, described the victory as a “breakthrough”.

“I am a little bit surprised,” Chong said. “It is a big step for us.”

Yee would nominate chief executive aspirants who would mend rifts in Hong Kong instead of stirring up conflict, Chong said.

However, in the culture subsector, the 15 members of the pro-democracy group ARTicipants were all defeated.

Songwriter Adrian Chow Pok-yin said it was hard for them to counter the powerful organisations of the pro-establishment camp which had great power to mobilise and sway voters.

Hung said it would be important for the city’s next leader to facilitate communication with the mainland.

Hong Kong in shock as Chief Executive CY Leung decides not to seek re-election

Veteran actress Liza Wang Ming-chuen, who won in the culture subsector, said it was too early to say who she would support in the chief executive race.

In the financial services subsector, 33 candidates fought for 18 seats, and eight who supported Leung in 2012 were re-elected, while five winners supported Leung’s rival Tang.

The turnout rate was nearly 20 percentage points higher than that in the last committee election in 2011, when overall turnout was 27.6 per cent.

The top three subsectors with the highest turnout rates were the Hong Kong and Kowloon district councils at about 95 per cent, the Heung Yee Kuk at about 90 per cent, and hotels with 85 per cent.