An original version of this article appeared in Hong Kong Free Press on February 29, 2016:
Edward Leung Tin-kei, a candidate from localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, won more than 15 percent of the total votes in the New Territories (East) by-election on Sunday, signalling a possible strong showing for localist groups in the upcoming general election to the legislature in September.
Leung thanked his supporters for voting for him, saying that the votes belonged to all people who were “brave to defend the values of Hong Kong”. He added that their ideas had received the endorsement of more than 60,000 citizens in Hong Kong, and that Hong Kong Indigenous would be participating in the general election of the legislature in September.
Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a founding member of the pro-democracy Civic Party whose resignation from the legislature effectively triggered this by-election, told RTHK on Monday morning that the by-election result was an unprecedented success for Hong Kong Indigenous.
“I think it shows that localism in Hong Kong is to become a political force to reckon with. And it probably… not only will it affect the September election, but [it] probably will influence other mainstream pan-democrats to review their political platform and try to win over some of the supporters of localism. And it doesn’t spell too well for the stability of Hong Kong in the near future,” Tong said.
Tong announced his resignation as a legislative councillor and withdrew from his Civic Party membership back in June 2015, after revealing the founding of a new think-tank, Path of Democracy. The move is widely seen as demonstrating Tong’s intention to promote centrist politics to promote democracy in the current polarised political environment.
Cheng Chung-tai, a leading figure of localism group Civic Passion, believed that the figure is a good sign for localist groups. “If this number is being carried to the general election of the Legislative Council, it is possible that one or two representatives from localist groups will become elected [in the New Territories (East) constituency].”
Several localism groups, including Civic Passion, Hong Kong Resurgence Order and Proletariat Political Institute, said they will hold a press conference on early Monday evening to announce plans for the upcoming Legislative Council election in September.
Holden Chow Ho-ding, a candidate for the pro-Beijing DAB party who lost the seat by 10,000 votes, also said this morning that localism has become a force in this election. He added: “I will have to agree that there are many problems existing in our society right now, and this deserves our attention.”
Speaking to Apple Daily before the announcement of results, Ivan Choy Chi-keung, senior lecturer at the politics department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Beijing will be shocked if a high number of voters cast their ballots for Leung. He also predicted that localism groups will be more active in joining the upcoming general election, creating an impact for the traditional pan-democratic camp.
‘Retaining the vital seat’
Speaking during another radio show on Monday morning, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, member of the pro-democracy Civic Party who won the by-election on Sunday, said: “People who voted for me do not necessarily mean that they completely agree with me or the Civic Party. But they do not want the seat to be taken by pro-Beijing parties.”
Yeung also praised Leung as an “outstanding opponent”, adding that he will block the passing of the amendment bill to the Copyright Ordinance and the budget for the Express Rail.
Holden Chow Ho-ding also congratulated Yeung during his concession speech early Monday morning, adding: “I continue to strongly believe that our ideology – to walk on the right track, and to preserve peace and rule of law in Hong Kong – will resonate among the Hong Kong people.”
Independent candidate Christine Fong Kwok-shan said she felt disappointed with the outcome of the election. She said voters did not vote according to the past performances of the candidates, adding that the polarisation of the legislature will not be beneficial to Hong Kong.
A total of 434,000 voters, or 46.1 percent of all voters in the New Territories (East) constituency, cast their ballot in Sunday’s by-election. Turnout was 7.76 percentage points lower than in the 2012 general election of the legislature, but 28.87 higher compared with the by-election in 2010.
There were a total of seven candidates contesting the single seat during the by-election on Sunday. They were: Third Side’s Wong Sing-chi, DAB’s Holden Chow Ho-ding, Hong Kong Indigenous’s Edward Leung Tin-kei, Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, and independent candidates Lau Chi-shing, Albert Leung Sze-ho and Christine Fong Kwok-shan.