The NeoDemocrats—a political group barely one year old—won a sweeping victory in this year’s District Council elections. The new group won eight seats after sending 10 candidates to run for the elections. Two of them are election novices, capturing the seats with their first foray into politics. The political group was established last year, as the Democratic Party secretly negotiated with Beijing and supported the government’s electoral reforms. Many of the Democratic Party’s disillusioned younger members decided to leave the party. “The electoral reforms involved a lot of differences and conflicts with our principles, values and stances. So we had to quit,” says Gary Fan, one of NeoDemocrats’ founding members. It was not easy. Members of the NeoDemocrats were left on their own to conduct community work and election campaigns. They have taken on a simple approach: devote time to work on the ground in order to garner public support. Many pan-democrat leaders say that they don’t have the resources or money to offer free meals and gifts to potential voters, a tactic usually employed by parties such as the DAB, which enjoys popularity among working-class and elderly voters. “For middle-class voters, they are not much influenced by free gifts. But by [politicians] distributing free gifts, they [voters] can communicate with district councilors and feel like the councilors care about them,” Fan says. “Our strength does not lie in offering free meals and gifts. But when our opponents do so, we cannot totally refrain from it.” The NeoDemocrats have also sought another way of engaging with voters without great expenditure. Companies such as CLP and Towngas offer funding and free gifts such as mooncakes for all district councilors and community officers to give to neighborhood residents. These programs are useful because it allows the NeoDemocrats to build their relationship with the community, by handing out gifts, without draining their finances. The pro-establishment bloc has repeatedly tried to depoliticize the District Council, emphasizing its role in minor, day-to-day issues but not in Hong Kong’s greater political debates. “When we get in touch with residents, we find out that they are most concerned with traffic, housing and elderly welfare. We try to explain to them the policies behind the system,” says Ben Chung, who won a seat in Yan Wing district in Sai Kung. “We tell them that the legislative branch cannot counter-balance the power of the executive branch. Kaifongs [community members] will understand that their everyday problems are rooted in the larger defects of our political system… Of course, you need to be patient when you explain [things] to kaifongs.” “Even though District Councils are only consulting bodies, it doesn’t mean that we have no political influence,” Fan adds. “The bottom line is that we won’t give up the war to surrender our positions.” True, the District Council only seems to have power when it comes to trivial matters in the community, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a role to play in promoting democracy, too. NeoDemocrats advocates a bottom-up approach; they strive to educate and empower voters at the ground level. Its logic and tactics are very simple, and perhaps this is the very thing needed to further the development of democracy in Hong Kong.