HONG KONG—The effect of last year’s Occupy Central Movement for democracy in Hong Kong manifested in the results of the District Council election held last Sunday, Nov. 22.
While the performances of most major parties were steady, the “Umbrella Soldiers,” a name given to all newcomers to Hong Kong’s political scene after the democratic Umbrella Movement, managed to win a total of eight seats in their political debut. Some of them even succeeded in ousting the veteran heavyweights.
Another interesting phenomenon that deserves close inspections is the remarkable success of the Neo Democrats, who advocate “pragmatic localism” that emphasizes putting Hong Kong people’s interests first. The group fielded a total of 16 candidates in the election and only fell one short of achieving a sweeping victory. This marks a new chapter in Hong Kong’s political development.
Alarmed by the systematic and unrelenting efforts of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to erode the territory’s core values, including the freedom of expression and the rule of law as enshrined in the Basic Law, Hong Kong people’s awareness of preserving their way of life has reached a new high. A record-breaking 1.47 million voters, 47.01 percent of all registered voters, cast their votes.
People are beginning to realize that the strategies adopted by the traditional democrats will not be able to rescue Hong Kong from sinking. They have therefore invested their hopes in the new political groups.
Admittedly, apart from their resolve and determination, Hong Kong people have few resources to fight against the CCP. They have exhausted almost all the peaceful means in their struggle for democracy.
Most Hong Kong people also understand that any attempt to employ violence will only lead the territory into darker alleys. The failure of radical democrats such as the League of Social Democrats and Civic Passion to win any seats indicates that their approach has little support in society.
The rise of the new democratic groups should be a wake-up call for traditional democrats.
For instance, the Democratic Party and the Civic Party have always been criticized for doing too little at the district level. While the quest for full democracy in Hong Kong should remain one of their major goals, they must focus more on livelihood issues and develop greater connections with grassroots people.
The pro-Beijing camp, which enjoys great material support from the CCP, has done far more in this area. That is one reason they have been able to win more seats at the election.
However, the success of the “Umbrella Soldiers” and the Neo Democrats in the election shows that as long as political parties can present a clear vision and show a firm commitment to improving the welfare of the people in their constituencies, they will be able to gain the people’s support.
Despite vast support from the CCP, as well as rumors that the pro-Beijing camp has tried all sorts of tricks to gain the support of voters, the pro-Beijing camp’s performance has been disappointing.
The pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the largest winner in the election, only managed to grab a total of 119 seats, unchanged from 2011 after discounting for the abolition of appointed councilors in 2015.
The losses of veteran heavyweights among both the pro-Beijing camp and pan-democrats—including incumbent pro-Beijing legislators Christopher Chung Shu-kun and Elizabeth Quat as well as pan-democrats Albert Ho Chun-yan, Frederick Fung Kin-kee, and Kenneth Chan Ka-lok—reinforces the argument that voters are looking for some real changes.
It must, however, be noted that Albert Ho Chun-yan’s defeat must have been due to the success of the strategy of the pro-Beijing camp, which is determined to bring Ho down so he will be denied the chance to stand for the 2016 Legislative Council election as a district councillor.
In conclusion, the results of the district election indicate that Hong Kong people’s determination to safeguard Hong Kong from mainland Chinese influence has strengthened. The injection of new blood and fresh faces into the District Council will bring positive changes to Hong Kong’s political landscape.
It is unfortunate that the division in the democratic camp in recent years has done great damage to Hong Kong’s long struggle for democracy and social justice. These rifts need to be healed.
In the Umbrella Movement, there was much debate over the leadership issue. Many people claimed that no one possessed the authority to lead them.
This actually shows that Hong Kong does not have a leader who can really inspire the people to work together for the common good. It is a great handicap that has to be addressed, and with urgency.