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Time to restart HK's future

Global Times

By Bai Yunyi, Fan Lingzhi and Chen Qingqing in Hong Kong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/29 22:58:40 Last Updated: 2019/11/30 8:11:42

Pro-establishment camp commits to continue work at community level

It has been a tough week for the pro-establishment camp in Hong Kong, as the majority of candidates lost in the district council elections, and the landslide victory of pan-democratic forces astonished many, who firmly believed the pro-establishment camp would be capable of serving local communities well.

Junius Ho Kwan-yiu has scheduled meetings at the Legislative Council on social issues. The third day after the election results came out, Ho was back in his office at the LegCo, focusing on his work as a lawmaker. "It was shocking. We have to look into why we lost heavily in this battle," he told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The outspoken legislator, who also ran for re-election in the Lok Tsui constituency in Tuen Mun, lost to Cary Lo Chun-yu, a candidate of the pan-democratic group, by over 1,000 votes.

While supporters of Lo opened bottles of champagne to celebrate, Ho described the result as "the world turned upside down" on his Facebook page. Pan-democratic forces have taken control of 17 out of 18 districts.

"We [pro-establishment candidates] need to sit down and reflect on this failure, to think about measures to fix it. In the next four years, how would we handle work related to people's livelihood?" Ho asked.

The election took place following months of anti-government protests, which made it highly politicized and sentimental, officials and observers said. As Hong Kong people are unhappy with the office of Carrie Lam for the rising political unrest, such dissatisfaction directly reflected on the mood against the pro-establishment camp, which has been supporting the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government.

Politicized election

Victor Chan Chi-ho, a 33-year-old candidate of the New People's Party, was defeated at the election despite that he scored more than 4,000 votes, representing a very close gap with his rival. Although it was the first time he has run for district council, he gained 43.8 percent of votes in his constituency. "Thank you for your support, I regret that I can't strive to work for a better community," Chan said on his Facebook page.

This year's elections were considered an "abnormal" one, as both the number of registered voters and voter turnout reached record highs. The results show there has been no significant gap between the pan-democratic camp and the pro-establishment party, as the latter took about 40 percent of the votes.

Because of the unstable and sometimes chaotic social situation, the elections took on a political dimension, turning district councils - which handle livelihood issues - to a battleground for political agendas.

A few months ago, Chan expressed his worries about this year's elections, as Hong Kong had been engulfed in rising violent protests triggered by the extradition bill. "On the day of elections, I met some local residents I know, but some avoided direct eye contact with me," he said, noting that he felt he would lose.

"After the elections, some residents told me that 'we know you have done a lot for our community, and you are a capable candidate. But considering the current political climate, we couldn't vote for you,'" Chan told the Global Times.

Pro-establishment camp members have been working in communities for many years, focusing on livelihood, while having accumulated experience in handling social issues, Tam Yiu-chung, former DAB chairman, told the Global Times in an earlier interview. However, some members have been criticized for being "bureaucratic" for their close ties with the government, but it should not be neglected that they have been serving residents in different communities for years, observers said.

"I was at a campaign with some volunteers, and a volunteer argued with a candidate from the opposition group. Then about six people besieged us, some abused us, while others took photos," Chan said, noting that he was also constantly harassed on social media, as his personal information was exposed.

Chan said opposition groups constantly smeared him as being a gangster and having mistresses, and the photos, phone numbers and addresses of his family members were posted online. Such doxxing also occurred at anti-government protests, targeting frontline police officers who countered black-clad rioters.

Ahead of the elections, DAB representatives claimed that growing hatred and divergence amid social unrest would not guarantee a fair environment for the elections, as black terror continued to spread across the city, and DAB offices were vandalized.

'Never lose hope'

Some pro-establishment candidates said they felt hurt when they lost, and even for some candidates who won, it was hard to accept the result.

Cheung Pui-kong, a pro-establishment candidate who won in Kwun Tong constituency, said this year's elections were "a real competition." Because voter turnover was low in district council elections in 2015, some constituencies only had single candidate, who was automatically elected, and he was one of them, Cheung noted.

Voter turnout was confirmed at 71.2 percent of 4.1 million registered voters this year, compared to 47 percent in the 2015 polls, and surpassed the previous record of 58 percent in the 2016 Legislative Council elections. Many newly registered voters are youngsters, who analysts believe voted for pan-democratic candidates and even took part in the months of anti-government protests.

Many believe those who voted for the pro-establishment camp are middle-aged and elderly people, while the young generation turned out to support opposition forces to voice their dissatisfaction with the HKSAR government, he noted. "But DAB should never give up communicating with young Hongkongers," the newly elected district council member said.

"When young people told me that they only read Apple Daily, I suggested that they also take a look at Oriental Daily and Ta Kung Pao," he said, noting that heart-to-heart talks would always be helpful with youngsters.

However, breaking laws or disrupting social order will never be acceptable, Cheung added.

Pan-democratic groups may win the majority of seats in next year's LegCo elections, and may even have the chance to win the seat of LegCo president, according to some pro-establishment representatives.

"They would further challenge the election of the next chief executive," Ho said.

Pro-establishment candidates vowed not to lose hope, as it has become even more urgent to regain public support by continuing work at the community level.

"We also need to accelerate reforms within the legislature to enhance law enforcement in holding rioters accountable, and raise the electoral threshold by forbidding those who participated in illegal assemblies from running for office," Ho said.

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