Results of district election clear before it begins

Nomination for the 2023 District Council election, the first to be held under the “patriots-only” principle, scheduled for December 10 will officially kick off on Tuesday (17/10). But the results of the polls are already on the wall.

It looks certain all hopefuls who are members of the Democratic Party, now the only sizable force in the pro-democracy camp, will not be able to meet the nomination requirements for entering the race.

Under the new election system approved by the new legislature this year, election aspirants are required to secure at least three nomination tickets from each of the three district-level bodies handling matters such as fire prevention and environmental hygiene.

The three bodies have a total of 2,533 members, who were all appointed by the Government. Most of them belong to pro-Beijing political parties, grass-roots associations.

Citing privacy concerns, the Government has not published the full names of members of the three bodies and, most importantly, their direct contact information such as telephone numbers.

Responding to complaints about difficulty in reaching members of the three district-level bodies on Tuesday, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu insisted aspirants must rely on their “own efforts” to secure a spot in the race.

Lee’s remarks are clear indications that the Government will not make their “own efforts” to remove any barriers such as keeping direct contact information of those members secret that are deemed as unfair to pro-democracy aspirants.

The Democratic Party, who has earlier said at least eight members have expressed interest to run for a seat, said they encountered difficulty in reaching members.

Even if they were able to track down those members, the chance of getting tickets from them is slim.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, a veteran pro-Beijing academic, said the central authorities just do not care whether the Democrats will or will not field candidates.

There is some truth in his claim because the Democrats’ election bid will make no difference to the balance of power, or more accurately presence of political aspirants, in the 18 district councils.

Less than one-fifth of district council elections, or 88, will be open for grab through geographical polls. The remaining fourth-fifth will be either appointed by the Government or indirectly-elected.

Even if, a big if, the Democrats are able to get a handful of seats, it will make no substantive impact on those district councils.

So why all the attacks against the Democratic Party by pro-Beijing newspapers and politicians in the past two weeks?

With Beijing giving no indication of Democrats’ bid, the issue has seemingly been hijacked by the “hawks” in the pro-establishment camp to prolong the hardline two-pronged strategy on political issues.

First, the “hawks” have made fresh attacks against the Democrats’ “oppose China, disrupt Hong Kong” stance with a call for them to “cut ties” and admit “wrongdoings” in the “black violence,” referring to the 2019 social unrest.

By doing so, they have attempted to ensure Democrats will be out in the election race, clearing the way for a “patriots-only” contest in a narrow sense. Put it plainly, all 88 seats will be shared among the “patriotic camp.”

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong has announced plans to contest all 44 geographical constituencies.

Despite the fact that they may be able to get enough vote to snap up all the two seats up for grab in some constituencies, they have sent a clear message to other pro-establishment factions they will only field one candidate, thus leaving the other seat to other like-minded groups such as the Federation of Trade Unions and Heung Yee Kuk and New People’s Party.

With no order from Beijing for them to leave some room for the democrats to bid for a seat, pro-establishment groups have become emboldened to intensify their efforts to block the democrats’ election bid.

They have been given a helping hand from pro-Beijing media and propagandists. Through a blitz of articles that questioned the eligibility of democrats in terms of patriotism, they have given a no-nonsense warning to members of the district bodies for them not to nominate the democrats.

By eliminating most, if not all, democrats in the nomination period, the December 10 election will emerge as a pure “patriots-only” poll, resulting in the formation of 18 district councils whose composition will bear resemblance to the Legislative Council.

Claiming the revamp of the Legco election system in 2021 was an enhancement, officials had hailed the new legislature as a body with “all sorts colours.”

Lau Siu-kai has recently said it meant “all sorts of colours” in the patriotic camp. There is no doubt the 18 district councils constituted under the new design will have “all sorts of colours.”

▌[At Large] About the Author

Chris Yeung is a veteran journalist, a founder and chief writer of the now-disbanded CitizenNews; he now runs a daily news commentary channel on Youtube. He had formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal.