Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Dead end for Hong Kong democracy, so focus on social policies now, new Labour Party head says

Steven Kwok takes top post of 200-member pro-democracy group seeking new ideas and fresh blood

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 November, 2017, 9:17am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 November, 2017, 9:17am

Hong Kong’s road to greater democracy has come to a dead end for now and pan-democrats should shift their focus to call for better policies improving people’s livelihoods and safeguarding human rights, the Labour Party’s new chairman said on Sunday.

Steven Kwok Wing-kin, 30, was the only candidate running for the top post in the six-year-old party, which aims to serve the city’s low-income residents including workers and the underprivileged.

He succeeded Suzanne Wu Sui-shan, who surprisingly quit as head of the 200-strong party over an internal disagreement in August.

Hong Kong Labour Party chair makes surprise departure over internal disagreement

“The past democracy movement followed the timetable set by Beijing ... Now it is clear that Beijing is not sincere in allowing us to enjoy universal suffrage,” Kwok said.

He acknowledged that the failure of the 2014 Occupy movement and stalled political reform in the city meant a “dead end” for pro-democracy advocates.

Now it is clear that Beijing is not sincere in allowing us to enjoy universal suffrage
Steven Kwok, Labour Party chairman

However, Kwok said there was still much work ahead for pan-democrats.

“Every battlefield including the areas of livelihood and human rights is important,” he said. “As a political party, we have to tell the public how we can make Hong Kong a better place, besides fighting for democracy.”

A cohesive set of policy plans was needed, he argued, citing the party’s proposal to impose a dividends tax, introduce rent control, and restrict the number of mainland postgraduate students in the city.

Strengthening policy research, coupled with efforts to rejuvenate the party, topped Kwok’s to-do list.

Following the defeat of two veteran lawmakers – Lee Cheuk-yan and Cyd Ho Sau-lan – in the Legislative Council elections last year, together with the retirement of social welfare representative Peter Cheung Kwok-che, the party’s presence in Legco dropped from four to one. Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung is its sole representative.

Kwok said it was urgent to attract and groom new talent, but he said the party was still exploring ways to achieve this.

As a start, the party plans to send six younger members alongside three incumbent district councillors to run in the 2019 district council elections.

Kwok’s own journey into politics began when he took up the student union presidency at the University of Hong Kong in 2008 and joined the leadership of the Hong Kong Federation of Students in 2009.

At the age of 23, the then student activist ran for Legco for the first time.