Hong Kong Legco polls: Candidates out in full force on last day of campaigning

Five generations of Democratic Party chairmen, including (from left) Mr Yeung Sum (in yellow shirt), Ms Emily Lau (in red), Mr Albert Ho, Mr Martin Lee and Mr Lee Wing Tat, turned up to support the party's young contenders on the eve of polling day.
Five generations of Democratic Party chairmen, including (from left) Mr Yeung Sum (in yellow shirt), Ms Emily Lau (in red), Mr Albert Ho, Mr Martin Lee and Mr Lee Wing Tat, turned up to support the party's young contenders on the eve of polling day.ST PHOTOS: JOYCE LIM
Members of various parties campaigning outside Tai Wai MTR station in the New Territories East, which is contested by a new wave of young candidates.
Members of various parties campaigning outside Tai Wai MTR station in the New Territories East, which is contested by a new wave of young candidates.

Six abandon their own bids, either by force or voluntarily, to unite pan-democratic camp

Candidates and their supporters were out in full force to canvass for votes all day yesterday, even as some complained of being coerced to abandon their campaigns in the run-up to today's Legislative Council (Legco) polls that could change Hong Kong's political landscape.

In the opposition camp, the Democratic Party for the first time saw five generations of chairmen - including founding member Martin Lee, 78, and current chairman Emily Lau, 64 - turning up to give the party's younger candidates a boost.

"The five of us may have left the Council but that does not mean we have left politics or lost our (verve to) fight for democracy," said the party's fourth-generation chairman Albert Ho, 64.

He was addressing a crowd outside Tai Wai MTR station in the New Territories East, a constituency contested by a new wave of young candidates.

The Democratic Party and other traditional pan-democratic parties are facing a big test, as these candidates from more radical parties are vying with them for the same voters.

STILL IN THE FRAY

The five of us may have left the Council but that does not mean we have left politics or lost our (verve to) fight for democracy.

MR ALBERT HO, the Democratic Party's fourth-generation chairman, on supporting the younger candidates.

From 7.30am to 10.30pm today, 3.7 million Hong Kongers can cast their ballots for their legislators in the 70-seat Legco, or Parliament.

It is the first major election since the 79-day Occupy Central protests two years ago that saw thousands, mainly students, agitating for greater democracy and autonomy. Some of the young activists went on to form parties that are challenging the political establishment today.

These localist candidates are campaigning to protect Hong Kong's autonomy and identity, with some calling for separation from China.

Despite attempts by the government to ban them from the race, some stand a high chance of being voted into the Council, said analysts.

The rise of these young candidates has led to serious fragmentation of the pan-democratic parties, said Ms Lau. Before, it was just the pro-Beijing camp versus the pan-democratic camp.

 

But the past few days have seen six candidates abandoning their campaign to unite the pan-democratic camp. Some had been coerced to do so while others did so voluntarily, calling on their supporters to vote for other pan-democratic candidates.

One of them, independent candidate Paul Zimmerman, told The Standard that the next Legco term would be very important and people should vote for democrats who "are almost in" to increase their numbers.

The pan-democrats will lose their veto power if they fail to win at least one-third of the seats.

Today's vote is the culmination of intense campaigning by 213 candidates from 35 political parties.

For more than a month, the contenders pounded the pavements to reach out to voters. They held live broadcasts on Facebook and attended election forums on TV and radio shows, where they debated on hot-button issues like insufficient housing, income inequality and the lack of universal suffrage.

Given the broad choices, however, some Hong Kongers said they are undecided whether to vote, or whom to vote for.

Housewife Mei Ning, 45, said: "There are so many candidates this time, it's too complicated. I am not sure whom to vote for."

But younger voters like Mr Li Ho Leung, 23, and his friend Wip Sik Man, 21, who are both maintenance officers, are anxious to see more young legislators from the democratic and localist parties giving a voice to the city's youth.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 04, 2016, with the headline 'Candidates out in full force on last day of campaigning'. Print Edition | Subscribe