Fight for HK Legco seats heats up

Opposition parties shift focus from one Leung to another after candidates barred from election

Localist party Youngspiration spokesman Kenny Wong Chun Kit campaigning in the streets in Hong Kong's Tsuen Wan district.
Localist party Youngspiration spokesman Kenny Wong Chun Kit campaigning in the streets in Hong Kong's Tsuen Wan district.PHOTO: KENNY WONG OF YOUNGSPIRATION

Hot issues from Hong Kong's "unfair" electoral system under Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying's administration to whether the city should seek more autonomy or independence took centre stage as campaigning kicked off for next month's legislative election.

At a rally attended by about 2,500 people on Friday, five candidates barred from running for a Legislative Council (Legco) seat spoke about a revolution for Hong Kong.

At the weekend, various parties fanned out, setting up booths outside MTR stations and in busy shopping areas to woo voters.

Small localist parties such as Youngspiration and Demosisto, which have limited resources, sought to enlist volunteers on social media to help distribute leaflets and post campaign materials.

Pan-democrats and localist candidates are trying to reach out to as many of the 3.7 million voters as possible to win more than one- third of the 70 Legco seats in order to achieve a high degree of autonomy for the city.

Pro-establishment parties, which now hold 43 seats, want to win five more, which will give them a two-thirds super-majority and more control in Legco.

Opposition parties, which had been focusing their campaign on calling for the unpopular Mr Leung to step down, tweaked their strategy to focus on high-profile pro-independent activist Edward Leung instead. Mr Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous, who spearheaded the Mongkok riot earlier this year, was believed to have stood a good chance of winning a Legco seat after he garnered 66,000 votes in a by-election in February.

His exit from the Legco race - despite him signing a new form required by the Electoral Affairs Commission to declare that Hong Kong is "an inalienable" part of China and abandoning his call for the city's independence - has caused anger and dismay among Hong Kongers.

Said Civic Party leader Alan Leong: "It (the ban) is seriously affecting the fairness of the election. They (election commission) went so far as to censor some election materials before the post office could do free posting for the candidates."

He was referring to the delay in the election commission's approval of localist candidate Nathan Law Kwun Chung's campaign materials, which had contained words such as self-determination.

"Hong Kongers are very concerned about the city losing its autonomy which the Basic Law promises us. There have been concerns about the mainland's intrusion, which is detrimental to Hong Kong's economy."

With six potential candidates barred from the election, Democratic Party leader Emily Lau, 64, sent an e-mail to the Human Rights Committee under the United Nations, condemning the disqualification of the candidates as a form of political screening and urged the committee to take "urgent actions".

Localist candidates Kenny Wong Chun Kit, 29, of Youngspiration, said sentiments on the ground showed that Hong Kongers are sympathetic to Mr Edward Leung and angry with the current election system. And he said he hoped that with Mr Leung openly declaring support for his party, he could win more votes.

"This is our first and last chance to get into Legco. We hope more people will come out and vote (for us)," he told The Straits Times.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2016, with the headline 'Fight for HK Legco seats heats up'. Subscribe