High-risk strategy may just pay off for Hong Kong opposition
Choice of four candidates, including two who may be disqualified from running, could see the public sympathy vote come into play
The opposition has come up with four candidates for the Legislative Council by-elections in March. The choices represent a high-risk strategy but a calculated and possibly clever one.
The Democratic Party, which has long enjoyed an electoral stronghold on Hong Kong Island, has swallowed its pride in working with political upstart Demosisto. The latter’s Agnes Chow Ting is just 21 and, having been a veteran protester, has no real political, policy – or for that matter – job experience.
The thinking seems to be that the angry and youthful voters who sent radical localists Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang, Yau Wai-ching and Demosisto’s Nathan Law Kwun-chung – all disqualified now – to Legco in 2016 are still there, and angrier than ever.
Of the four candidates, Edward Yiu Chung-yim has the most recognisable name, thanks to his disqualification from the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency seat over improper oath-taking.
The so-called primaries held by the Power for Democracy on Sunday attracted more than 26,000 “voters” who picked Yiu for the Kowloon West race, and Gary Fan Kwok-wai of the NeoDemocrats for New Territories East.
If we use the polls not so much as primaries, but as a survey on voters’ preferences, the pair have a fair shot in March. Meanwhile, district councillor and urban planning advocate Paul Zimmerman will run for Yiu’s vacated functional constituency seat.
Zimmerman is politically moderate, and has proposed sensible ideas for a host of controversial government projects such as the Central Market and the Central Waterfront. The opposition is banking on post-colonial Legco being ready for a pan-democrat expatriate.
But the overall strategy is high-risk. Yiu was disqualified once and may face the same fate again. Sing Tao Daily has reported this week that his application to run as a candidate could be rejected on the basis of the ruling of the National People’s Congress on oath-taking, which applied to the entire term of the current legislature.
Chow also faces being screened out because she is running on a platform for full autonomy for Hong Kong, which may be interpreted as a stance for independence.
But there is clearly a Plan B. If both Yiu and Chow fail to qualify, the opposition could bank on voters’ anger at the government and sympathy for the pair that they may just switch votes to their replacements, whoever they may be.