When more votes mean defeat: How these Hong Kong district council veterans lost their constituents
Veterans from both the pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps might have won more votes from their constituents than in the last election – but they still lost in Sunday’s district council elections.
This was due mostly to the effects of mobilisation on the ground and at times the opposite phenomenon.
An analyst said the fall of pro-democracy old hands was to do with “targeted” mobilisation by the rival camp. But this meant diverting resources from other areas held by pro-Beijing veterans. The diversion coupled with over-confident members in that camp meant smaller vote shares, which sometimes led to defeat for candidates.
Pro-establishment parties received 529,000 votes for 191 seats, while the pan-democratic camp, including Occupy protesters-turned-candidates, won 476,000 votes and 94 seats.
Apart from pan-democratic heavyweights Albert Ho Chun-yan and Frederick Fung Kin-kee, many other veterans also lost.
Initial checks by the South China Morning Post showed that they did not lose because their voter base disappeared. Indeed, in some cases they collected more votes than in the previous elections in 2011.
The fact was that their rivals outperformed them, reeling in more votes from the enlarged pool of electors.
Take Josephine Chan Shu-ying of the Democratic Party, who has been a Tuen Mun district councillor since 1994. She bagged 2,267 votes – 156 more than she got four years ago.
Still, she was ousted by 25-year-old Mo Shing-fun of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, who snapped up even more votes than she received in the 2011 polls – an additional 1,090.
Their battle ground – Siu Hong – recorded a voter turnout of 58 per cent, far higher than the city-wide average of 47 per cent.
“The DAB started its strategic planning four years ago,” said Chan as she blamed her defeat on DAB mobilisation. “They set up many organisations to network with owners’ corporations in private housing blocks, collecting their data to keep regular contact, giving away gifts and organising meals and trips for them.”
She noted that there were 800 newly registered voters in the constituency this year. Given that she had kept her supporters, many of the new voters, whom she claimed to be new arrivals from the mainland, could have become DAB targets, she said.
But Mo dismissed the suggestion, saying he had not been dealing with many new immigrants: “What I have done is deal with residents’ requests for help case by case.”
Chan added that her party vice-chairman, Andrew Wan Siu-kin, faced a similar fate in Kwai Tsing district, managing to keep his votes but still being defeated by a DAB member.
DAB veterans also shared Chan’s frustrations.
READ MORE: Out with the old: Two big-name pan-democrats ousted in tight district council election races
Chan Wan-sang, a Tuen Mun district councillor for 24 years, obtained1,616 votes this time, only 169 fewer than he did in 2011.
But his rival, Tam Chun-yin, a first-timer from the Labour Party, won 1,731 votes. Tam’s margin of victory was far bigger than his predecessor’s in 2011.
Chan alleged that Tam won by “giving away boxes of mooncakes” to residents while he could give residents only a single cake each. Tam rejected the accusation, saying he worked by offering much-needed services.
Tam’s party runs two social enterprises in the neighbourhood, collecting second-hand toys and books from the richer private housing estates for distribution to the needy in public housing.
“Not all these activities are very popular, but they gave me opportunities to reach out to many residents,” Tam said.
Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said the fall of veterans in the pro-Beijing camp showed that “the camp does not have unlimited resources after all”.
“You see their resources are targeted at the pan-democrats’ veterans who are strong enough to contest the Legislative Council or who will take over the party leadership,” he said.