Blockade planned to disrupt HK election

A pro-democracy sit-in during establishment candidate Carrie Lam's visit to the Electoral Affairs Commission last week. Some Hong Kongers object to the lack of universal suffrage in the election.
A pro-democracy sit-in during establishment candidate Carrie Lam's visit to the Electoral Affairs Commission last week. Some Hong Kongers object to the lack of universal suffrage in the election.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Activist wants to impede pro-Beijing committee casting ballots for chief executive

In a move that could escalate tensions between Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp and Beijing, the organiser of the annual July 1 mass rally plans to mount a blockade of the polling centre for the chief executive election on March 26.

Mr Au Nok Hin told The Straits Times that the Civil Human Rights Front is planning to mobilise activists from 40 organisations to stop the 1,194 members of the Election Committee (EC) from entering the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Polling Day.

This year's leadership election, the first since the massive Occupy street protests rocked the city in 2014, will see a three-way fight involving former financial chief John Tsang, 65, former chief secretary Carrie Lam, 59, and retired judge Woo Kwok Hing, 70.

Hong Kong's next chief executive will be picked by the EC, which is packed with Beijing loyalists. A candidate needs at least 601 votes to win, but the outcome of the race is widely seen to have been determined by the central government in Beijing.

Mrs Lam, seen as Beijing's preferred candidate, secured 580 nominations to run, compared with 165 for Mr Tsang and 180 for Mr Woo. The qualifying threshold is 150.

Mr Au, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, said yesterday that the group wants Hong Kongers to have the right to choose their next leader.

"Many people see this as an unjust election system because the 'small-circle' Election Committee does not represent Hong Kongers. Therefore, we need to stop them," said the 29-year-old.

Mr Au is hoping that more than 10,000 protesters will turn up this year.

He said that while he has yet to finalise details of the planned blockade, protesters will gather outside Wan Chai MTR station before marching to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, about 1km away.

The main polling station and central counting station are located in the convention centre.

Mr Au, a district councillor, warned that things might turn ugly on Polling Day.

"We expect some organisations and political parties to be more radical, and their members may run after the chief executive candidates and stop EC members from entering the polling station," he said.

"If we have a massive turnout, we would be able to block EC members from entering the polling station, without having to physically restrain them," added Mr Au, who said he does not intend to get prior approval from the police, as required by law.

When contacted, a police spokesman told The Straits Times that the police will closely monitor public activities on Polling Day and work with relevant departments to ensure that the election can proceed smoothly.

Former lawmaker Alan Leong, a veteran politician who is chairman of the Civic Party, said pro-democracy activists have to use such tactics largely because of the high-handed manner in which Beijing has been interfering in the city's leadership race.

Mr Aaron Shum, an EC member, said he is worried that the massive protests to disrupt the election will backfire and lead Beijing to tighten its grip on the city even more.

"I do not understand why (the protesters) want to do this. It's becoming a big problem. I saw how protesters had heckled Carrie Lam at the election debates...

"If this carries on, there will be no peace in Hong Kong," said Mr Shum, who is secretary-general of the Hong Kong Business Community Joint Conference.

In the past week, activists, including Occupy leader Joshua Wong, have heckled the candidates on a number of occasions.

Political analyst James Sung warned that any disruption on Polling Day will only turn off most Hong Kongers and hurt the cause of the pro-democracy camp.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2017, with the headline 'Blockade planned to disrupt HK election'. Print Edition | Subscribe