It has been yet another bad month for Hong Kong’s pan democrats.
In the Kowloon West by-election last month, they failed to regain the seat they lost during 2016’s oath-taking controversy – and it was a very embarrassing defeat.
Two pan democrats ran in the by-election: Frederick Fung Kin-kee and Lee Cheuk-yan. Many claimed that Fung only ran to take votes away from Lee and help “independent” candidate and eventual victor Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan. But it turned out Chan didn’t need Lee’s help, because she still received nearly 1,000 more votes than Fung and Lee combined.
Party bosses are now trying to figure out why the camp suffered two straight electoral defeats in a constituency where they once held a majority.
Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, leader of the Civic Party, said in a radio interview last Thursday that the loss was due to lack of support from localists. Localists, like the pan-democrats, oppose the current government, but they believe in focusing solely on the welfare of Hongkongers rather than advocating democracy throughout China. Despite calls for the two groups to cooperate, this doesn’t always happen.
However, on this occasion, Eu’s blame was misplaced. Statistics from the Electoral Affairs Commission showed that pan-democrats received strong support in electorates that are known to be localist strongholds. In fact, the number of votes for Lee in areas such as Nam Cheong North, Nam Cheong South, and Cheung Sha Wan were higher than the average for the whole constituency.
Indeed, the localist vote should be the least of the pan-democrats’ problems, as the figures also showed that the camp is struggling when it comes to its traditionally strongest demographic: the middle class. Even though Lee won a number of electorates mainly comprised of middle class voters, like those in Lai Chi Kok and Mei Foo, the margin between him and Chan was very slim. In a couple of cases, Lee only beat Chan by about 300 votes.
The pan-democrats need to stop blaming localists and realise the fact is that voters see them as out of touch with the current political reality. They disagree with the camp’s stance on controversial infrastructure and political system reforms, and their approach to Chinese immigration.
While the pan-democrats may claim to have unity for now, the camp is a sinking ship, with no sense of direction, and is ordering its guns to fire at all allied ships. Unless something changes, the ship is going down without a fight.