Hong Kong district council elections 2015

Hong Kong's pro-establishment candidates face battle for share of vote in district council elections

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 October, 2015, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 October, 2015, 12:00am

With time short before next month's district council elections, Andy Liu Ming-kin is up early to meet residents of Luen Wo Hui in Fanling before their hour-long commutes into the city.

"My battle is a difficult one," he says. And that is no politician's exaggeration.

The Liberal Party hopeful faces an uphill task in one of the seven constituencies citywide contested by more than one candidate from the pro-establishment camp.

Liu faces Tsang Hing-lung of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) in a battlefield where Law Sai-yan of the Democratic Party is seeking re-election.

Traditionally the pro-establishment camp has managed to minimise direct competition - sometimes with the help of the liaison office, Beijing's representative in the city - for fear of allowing pan-democrats to benefit. But there are no guarantees.

"Even with coordination, it is impossible to avoid a pro-establishment candidate," Liberal Party chairman Felix Chung Kwok-pan says. "There are only so many seats throughout the district councils."

With a total of 431 constituencies spread across 18 districts, four of the 20 Liberal Party candidates will have to fight a fellow pro-establishment candidate.

Chung laments: "Every party wants to expand and so must find a constituency that suits their image."

Luen Wo Hui constituency is just one example. Located a 20-minute ride from the border with Shenzhen, it has no public housing estates, so Liu can focus on residents in private properties, regarded as more in line with the party's middle-class image.

It's a similar story with two other pro-business groups in the camp: the New People's Party (NPP) and the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong. Three candidates from each party will clash with supposed allies - two with each other.

"I'm a good friend of [the alliance's] Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, but still none of our members is willing to give up. I have no other options," says NPP chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, referring to her Executive Council and Legislative Council counterpart. "This is an open election and of course a competition is expected."

Chung says it is possible that pan-democrats will benefit thanks to a vote split. But Ben Chung Kam-lun - a NeoDemocrat up for re-election in Yan Ying, Tseung Kwan O, against Liberal Harris Yeung Ho-chuen and the NPP's Michael Liu Tsz-chung - argues otherwise.

"Some say I will have an easier time, but I don't think so," Ben Chung says. "The pro-establishment camp has a wider spectrum - just like pan-democratic supporters a decade ago.

"My rivals, for instance, are seeking to expand their influence in a middle-class constituency where I have been working for the past four years."

But the traditional side of the pro-establishment camp is still in good shape when it comes to elections. The DAB and the Federation of Trade Unions have minimal overlap with allies.

Two DAB candidates face a contest with the Liberal Party and another with the alliance, while one federation candidate will battle it out with a Liberal hopeful.