News / Asia

    Political Jockeying Underway in Hong Kong

    FILE - Alvin Yeung (2nd R), a candidate from Civic Party, chants slogans with supporters at a campaign rally during a legislative by-election in Hong Kong, China.
    FILE - Alvin Yeung (2nd R), a candidate from Civic Party, chants slogans with supporters at a campaign rally during a legislative by-election in Hong Kong, China.

    Political jockeying is underway in Hong Kong ahead of September’s legislative council election, the first since pro-democracy lawmakers vetoed Beijing’s take-it-or-leave-it plan for selecting the territory’s next chief executive last year.

    At the same time a generational shift is underway, shaking up older parties and giving rise to parties so new they are yet to be named. This reflects not only the upheaval caused by the youth-led Occupy Central protests in 2014, but also shifting demographics – and values - within the electorate.

    The latest survey by the Public Opinion Poll at Hong Kong University shows public trust in both the Hong Kong and Beijing governments sharply plunging, with levels of distrust sharpest among respondents between 18-29 years old.

    Hong Kong First

    Joshua Wong, the bespectacled poster-boy of the Occupy movement, had previously dismissed traditional politics. But fighting the prolonged street action, and having nothing to show for it, was a sobering experience for him and fellow activists. At the same time, they showed themselves to be eloquent and more attractive to the general public than the senior government officials whom they confronted in a televised face-off.

    He now says Scholarism, the student group that came to prominence during the Occupy Central protests, has decided to fold its tent and subdivide into a student group and a political party, with no formal link between them.

    Wong says the new party’s focus is 2047, the year when Hong Kong’s Basic Law either expires or is extended by Beijing. The law is the basis for the one country-two systems formula that guarantees Hong Kong’s civil and political rights. Wong’s group wants Hong Kong people to choose their own future via a referendum, even though there is no law permitting a referendum and the administration opposes one.

    Wong also says the post-Scholarism group will distance itself from established parties that want democracy and are collectively known as “pan-democrats.” He calls his fledgling party “pro-democracy but not pan-democratic.”

    “Traditional politics is not useful because most of the pan-dems still believe dialogue, meeting and discussion may be necessary and effective for achieving democracy in Hong Kong, but it doesn’t mean that politics is useless or meaningless. It’s because we believe that if the new generation can represent some of the new values and enter the institution we can change and reform the current structure,” he told VOA.

    While older pro-democracy politicians generally see democracy in China as a precondition for democracy in Hong Kong, the new breed of activists rejects that linkage and focuses instead on Hong Kong’s struggle.

    “Actually, we believe Hong Kong would be the first step for us to achieve universal suffrage and democracy, and the next step would be achieved, let China have universal suffrage. Therefor, from my point of view, the first is Hong Kong and the next is China,” said Wong.

    FILE - Student leaders Joshua Wong (R) and Nathan Law smile in front of supporters holding yellow umbrellas, symbol of the Occupy Central movement, outside a police station in Hong Kong, July 14, 2015.
    FILE - Student leaders Joshua Wong (R) and Nathan Law smile in front of supporters holding yellow umbrellas, symbol of the Occupy Central movement, outside a police station in Hong Kong, July 14, 2015.

    Wake Up Call

    At the other end of the spectrum, the new chairwoman of the largest pro-Beijing party has resigned from Chief Executive CY Leung's Executive Council, Hong Kong's top policy-setting body.

    Starry Lee, a legislator long tipped to take up leadership of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), made the move in part to distance her party from the increasingly unpopular Leung.

    Lee, a younger face among the DAB’s aging leadership, was immediately replaced as an advisor by a DAB stalwart in his sixties. But the departure frees her to focus on party building and to begin constructing an image of her own – something the mild-mannered accountant needs in order to emerge from the political shadows.

    Her face is now appearing on the campaign posters of every potential DAB candidate.

    She did not respond to VOA’s requests for an interview, but in a recent interview with The Sing Tao Daily, Lee said that leaving the Executive Council meant she could speak more freely and articulate her party's stance more clearly.

    The DAB "is still a partner of government," she told the paper, "but in some policies the stance of the DAB is not the same as the government's."

    Being able to speak out, Lee said, could help the party "get more support from the public."

    The need to give DAB candidates wiggle-room, and get them more in line with public sentiment, became obvious two months ago when Holden Chow, one of the party’s promising young figures, finished more than 10,000 votes behind a young pan-democrat, the Civic party’s Alvin Yeung, in a Legislative Council by-election.

    The loss was a wakeup call for the DAB.

    Independence Call

    But even more eye opening was the showing by Edward Leung, a member of the radical nativist movement, who polled about 15 percent of the total vote (66,524). In the winner take all race, he was the third-place finisher, but September’s poll will be run on a proportional list system and Leung’s tally would be more than enough to win a seat.

    In fact, if he could raise his total by a just a few percentage points, he might be able to pull another nativist into the legislature on his coattail. His performance was a shot across the bow for established politicians on both sides.

    A new group this week said it is going even further, forming a political party to push for full independence from China.

    At a press conference this week, former Occupy Central activist Chan Ho-tin said his new National Party feels Hong Kong’s identity is being lost to the mainland under pressure from Beijing.

    The party, made up mostly of about 50 university students and youth activists, says it will field legislative candidates for the upcoming election.

    FILE - Pro-democracy lawmakers carrying yellow umbrellas, symbols for the Occupy Central movement, leave in the middle of a Legislative Council meeting as a gesture to boycott the government in Hong Kong, January 7, 2015.
    FILE - Pro-democracy lawmakers carrying yellow umbrellas, symbols for the Occupy Central movement, leave in the middle of a Legislative Council meeting as a gesture to boycott the government in Hong Kong, January 7, 2015.

    Functional Groups

    On a deeper and less conspicuous level, moves are also underway that aim to undermine the establishment’s existing political structure by getting democracy supporters into the professional and social bodies that, in turn, elect lawmakers representing so-called “functional constituencies.”

    These functional groupings form half of the 70-member legislature. In a number of these constituencies the voters are not individuals, but corporations. The other half of the legislature is directly elected from five geographical constituencies.

    These functional constituencies also form voting blocs in the 1,200-member body that will select the next chief executive in 2017.

    One group seeking to upend this structure is 2047 HK Monitor, a group of 200 younger professionals working in the financial sector, who coalesced during the Occupy Central movement.

    The founder and convener is Ed Chin, a hedge fund manager-turned-democracy advocate.

    Chin said their first priority is to put an end to corporate voting and put a ballot into the hands off every person working in the sector. But he said the hurdles remain large.

    “It is tough. First of all you have to be nominated by somebody already inside the 1,200, so it’s really, really tough.  … We also know that for the different functional groups that we want to contest, that because of the corporate vote it will be more or less a symbolic thing, [because] it’s almost impossible with the corporate votes,” he said.

    In short, his group will seek election to these functional constituencies in order to abolish them. Similar moves are happening in other professional sectors, including information technology and health.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Frankie Leung from: Los Angeles
    March 29, 2016 2:36 PM
    The under 30 year olds in Hong Kong are very bold. Unlike my older generation, they have the guts to ask for independence. Whether right or wrong, I salute them.

    by: Carmel
    March 29, 2016 5:12 AM
    This is inevitable considering the alarming rate of decline in freedom in HK. It is a very human reaction at all levels of a society without social contract because it was specifically denied by the PRC at the negiotiation of the Sino-British agreement. It is a good thing for HK and for the world, including the PRC.

    by: Peggy
    March 29, 2016 3:40 AM
    Please use the proper terms. It is the localist movement, NOT nativist. There is a huge difference between the two.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora