Fujian divisions trump politics
In the third of our series highlighting major battlegrounds in district council elections next month, Ambrose Leung looks at Eastern district
Internal rivalry, grabs for vacant seats and newcomers challenging established members pose undercurrents that could change the political landscape in Eastern district, despite it being a traditional stronghold for pro-government groups.
While the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong has 10 incumbents in the district, all are being challenged by the pan-democratic camp or others.
But the battle drawing attention is not one between pan-democrats and Beijing loyalists - it is what many consider to be a split in the Fujian community, with DAB legislator Choy So-yuk defending her seat in the Kam Ping ward against Fujian elder Charles Chiang Yu-tui.
Ms Choy, who almost lost her seat to 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung in the 2003 district council election when angry voters tried to remove pro-government figures from office, said this time she was in less danger of losing her seat.
'Who says the Fujian community is splitting? Are we splitting only because some people claim to be supported by our clan and have challenged me? I will stand firm and I don't care what is coming at me. People have to do real work to earn their seats,' she said.
Ms Choy, who is seeking a third term of office in the small community with close clan links, said she believed 'the vast majority of Fujian people are patriotic and love Hong Kong' - political jargon that usually means supporting the DAB. But this appears precisely the strategy deployed by Mr Chiang, a veteran in the patriotic camp who helped Ms Choy's campaign in 2003.
Mr Chiang is head of a civic education group and leader of a youth welfare organisation.
He claims to have close links with the central government's Liaison Office, and said that with everything else being equal, he had an edge over Ms Choy in district knowledge.
'This is not a political split, because whoever voters vote for, the councillor will be a patriot,' he said. 'Since Ms Choy is always so busy with her work in the legislature, I think residents will welcome someone who can devote his whole attention to their pressing needs.'
The DAB has also fielded several first-timers to challenge pan-democrat incumbents, taking the initiative to groom second-tier members.
Number of constituencies: 37
Number of candidates: 74
Number of voters: 309,695
Estimated population: 581,918
Democratic Party: 10
Civic Party: 6
Liberal Party: 3