The road to ruin: Hong Kong’s pan-democrats are eating each others’ lunch

Pro-establishment candidates are poised to score big victories in upcoming elections while their rivals bicker among themselves

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 February, 2016, 12:58am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 11:43am

Pan-democratic candidates are cannibalising each other in upcoming elections. The irony is that recent mass protests and a riot have galvanised radical and fringe groups to form political parties of their own, but their attempt to join the political process may prove to be self-defeating.

Start with the New Territories East by-election. My bet is with Holden Chow Ho-ding, who is vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. It won’t be through any particular personal merits, though.

The by-election this Sunday was triggered by the resignation of former Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah. At the moment, two candidates with the highest profile are localist Hong Kong Indigenous candidate Edward Leung Tin-kei and the Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu. But they look to be stealing votes from each other.

Some 20 members of Hong Kong Indigenous have been arrested for their suspected role in the Mong Kok riot, including Leung. The group calls for independence for Hong Kong and has been branded by Beijing as a “separatist” organisation. In spite of, or rather because of, his alleged role in the riot, Leung – who came out of nowhere – is taking votes from Yeung. He was treated like a rock star when hundreds of supporters showed up at a gathering outside New Town Plaza in Sha Tin at the weekend.

Once mainstream, the Civic Party is increasingly taking on more extreme positions. To fight Leung and retain votes, Yeung has condemned the police for their “brutality” in the Mong Kok riot. This was after reports that more than 90 officers were injured, some seriously. But pandering to extreme elements is a risky move. He could alienate traditional supporters – who may be upset at the government and Beijing but are not ready to turn to violence and riot – without attracting the radical votes from Leung.

Meanwhile, the student activist group Scholarism is forming a political party and planning to field at least two candidates to run in the Legislative Council election in September.

They will prove a greater threat to the more old-style pan-democratic candidates than anyone else. The establishment’s candidates tend to have a fixed support base, so the more volatile and unpredictable votes will likely be those going to the pan-democrats. This can’t be good for them.