Hong Kong By-Election Results Show Rising Tide of Youth Discontent

Hong Kong By-Election Results Show Rising Tide of Youth Discontent
Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

What you need to know

·This election upheld the precarious status quo in Hong Kong’s legislative body. ·Edward Leung, arrested for his role in the Fishball Revolution, got 15% of the votes, demonstrating the rise of youth discontent influencing politics.

The results of the Legislative Council by-election at Hong Kong’s New Territories this past Sunday saw the victory of the pan-democrat Alvin Yeung over pan-Beijing candidate Holden Chow.

Winning with 37.2% of the votes, Alvin Yeung promises to “advocate a reform within the pan-democratic camp,” and in reflection of Edward Leung’s performance noted, “from the votes gathered by Leung and me … it shows that [such reform] is imminent.”

Voter turnout was 434,000, or 46.2% of the eligible electorate. It was lower than the 53% seen in the general election four years ago, but was considered normal for by-elections in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile Edward Leung Tin-kei, the candidate from the fledgling pro-independence Hong Kong Indigenous party, came in third with a surprising 66,524 votes, or 15.4% of the vote.

Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

Edward Leung, a candidate from the Hong Kong Indigenous, chants slogans while crossing a street at a campaign during a Legislative Council by-election in Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

The hotly contested by-election, summoned after last year’s resignation of pan-democrat Ronny Tong Ka-wah from the Legislative Council, was a battle between pan-Beijing, pan-democratic, and independence supporters. The pan-Beijing caucus favors closer ties with the Chinese government while the pan-democrats favor a moderate approach of preserving democracy in adherence to Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

While the results preserves the status quo between pro-Beijing and pan-democratic forces, the recent election may serve as a barometric springboard for the localist independence movement that has been on the rise since the 2014 sit-in protests and the Fishball Revolution on February 8.

Remarking on his results, Edward Leung states, “This has proven that some people have agreed with our means to protest.” He believes the result was a warning to the government that “the people are not afraid of it, but instead it should fear the people.”

With the upcoming general elections this September, the rise of pro-independence support would add to the complex political situation facing Hong Kong’s future amid the disappearances of several bookstore owners in Hong Kong and rising discontent with Beijing’s encroachment on the region’s civil rights.

Galvanized by Leung’s performance, other localist groups such as Civic Passion and the Proletariat Political Institute announced a coalition the next day to get five of their candidates elected and resign after the election to create the need of a referendum to rewrite the Basic Law.

Danny Gittings, a professor at Hong Kong University, noted Leung’s performance as a warning for the pan-democrats since it “suggests that Hong Kong Indigenous, or similar candidates, are well-placed to win seats in the autumn elections.”

A young voter who cast her ballot for the first time said that she came forward because of the protests in recent years and wanted to “fulfill my civic responsibility. I mostly looked at their manifestos.”

Edited by Olivia Yang

“Hong Kong Election Shows Growing Support for Independence Push" (Bloomberg)
“Pro-democracy candidate Alvin Yeung wins hotly contested Hong Kong by-election, while localist Edward Leung has credible showing with 15pc of vote" (South China Morning Post)
“Who’s running in the New Territories East by-election? Profiles of 3 front-runners" (South China Morning Post)
“Despite by-election victory, Hong Kong’s pan-democrats face tough road ahead to city-wide polls in September" (South China Morning Post)
“By-election 2016: The rise and rise of Hong Kong Indigenous" (Hong Kong Free Press)
“By-election polls close with 46.1% turnout rate; close race predicted between Civic Party and DAB candidates" (Hong Kong Free Press)
“Localist groups announce action plan for Sept LegCo election as CY urged to reflect on by-election result" (Hong Kong Free Press)
“Five localists plan to run for Legco seats in push for Hong Kong independence" (South China Morning Post)