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November 19, 2007

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Daisann McLane

Hi Rebecca-thanks for the nice mention.

Although the media is spinning this election as a big win for pro-Beijing forces in HK, I think it is useful to look past the spin, and more closely at the numbers.

There are 405 district council seats. The DAB won 115. 94% of those (108) were incumbent seats. So the DAB picked up a total of 7 seats.

True, the Democratic Party only won 59 seats. But there are two new pan-Democrat parties in action that weren't around in 2003. If you total up ALL the pan-Dem wins, it comes to 93 seats, which is pretty respectable, considering the DAB had the bigger campaign treasure chest by far.

And the most important number: the largest group of winning district council candidates, 183, ran on local issues and declared themselves as "independents."

To me, the numbers suggest not that Hong Kong voters are leaning towards Beijing, but rather thinking locally.

Rebecca MacKinnon

Hi there Daisann! Great point. What's interesting, though, is the fact that when people acted in their local interests at least in this case, the pro-China camp beneifitted most. I wonder if over time this might make Beijing less afraid of the democratic process.
In the U.S., a lot of liberals have made the mistake of assuming that because they're liberal their platforms must obviously be in the best interest of the common man, and that anybody with intelligence who is thinking independently would recognize that. They've paid a heavy price for such attitudes. A lot of the commentary here has implied similar things about Hong Kong's liberal camp. I haven't been in Hong Kong long enough to pass judgment but it seems plausible to me based on what I've observed so far.

elliottng

Hi (just added you to Reader :) Interesting coverage. Your concluding point seems both encouraging and concerning. Maybe a smooth transition to democracy requires the ruling party to feel a strong likelihood of success in a more democratic system. Is this generally true? (Mexico? Chile?) What's a bit depressing is that pro-democracy groups in HK have had 20+ years to get their act together. What grassroots groups have learned the most from the HK laboratory, which are then applicable to China? Thanks for the coverage.

mahathir_fan

"Hong Kong's pro-China parties, led by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), did even better than expected in Sunday's District council elections,...........Offers of resignations were heard this morning on the Democratic side."

I'm confused. You just said in the beginning of the paragraph that the Democratic Alliance did VERY well at the election and then at the last sentence you said that members of that Democratic party is demanding resignations. If they did well, why are their members demanding resignations?

Clarke

Very interesting comments, especially by Long Hair. His admission sums up the paltry state of affairs of the pan-dems. After all these years if they still can't be trusted to "organize" they don't deserve any support. They've had this silly sense of entitlement ever since '97 and they've grown soft.

And it's certainly no spin- anyway you slice it the dems have lost big-time when they should easily be roaring ahead.

Will the pan-dems ever realize that they'll always lose when they play in a game rigged by Beijing? Probably not.

Chris

I observed the election campaign where I live in the New Territories. A DAB guy vs. a guy from the pro-democratic union. While both platforms focused on local issues, what seems to be the right thing to do in HK at the moment, I was wondering why a Unions guy tried to compete in a district which includes a large housinging estate of the upwardly mobile middle class?! The DAB guy and his volunteers were hovering around the area almost non-stop for the last two weeks, while I didn't see the Union guy once. I probably missed him, but it seems the DAB clearly pushed (was able to push) a lot harder. The result of 1650 vs 1450 or so votes suggests that this paid off in the end.
Yet, in the long run I tend to think somewhere along the lines of "elliottng". If the Beijing camp doesn't get more confident with being able to win in democratic elections, they will never give up their resistance to do away with Functional Constituencies. Besides full democracy being a nice thing in Hong Kong, I see the most important issue in getting rid of the "rent seeking" style rule of the tycoons through FCs. It is not only grossly unfair but also jeopardizes Hong Kong's future.
The result might also weaken the loyalists resistance to empower the district councils and teach the democracts an important lesson in terms of election strategies. So taking this into account, I am not so blue about the district elections.

Barny Chan

"I'm confused. You just said in the beginning of the paragraph that the Democratic Alliance did VERY well at the election and then at the last sentence you said that members of that Democratic party is demanding resignations. If they did well, why are their members demanding resignations?"

It's confusing because the reference to resignations relates to the pan-democrats in Hong Kong, NOT the DAB, who, despite the name, are not democrats.

There is another, much darker, contributory factor to the success of the DAB. Year on year, xenophobia and racism increases in HK. A vote for the DAB isn't just a vote for Beijing, it's an active vote against the outside world and other races.

Adrian

mahathir_fan - the confusion arises from nomenclature. There are two distinct parties with the word "Democratic" in their name. The "Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong" is actually the pro-Beijing, not-particularly-democratic-at-all party. (more here - http://www.dab.org.hk/en/index.jsp). They were the party that did well in the district council elections this week. By contrast, the "Democratic Party" are just one of a few pro-democracy (thus not-particularly-pro-Beijing) parties in Hong Kong - they didn't too well in the elections when compared with their results in 2003. Of course this time around they couldn't capitalise on issues like a strugglig HK economy and proposed anti-dissent legislation.

Could the pro-democracy parties have done better? Most definitely - they are not very good though at articulating policies other than uiversal suffrage, and even that has it's problems, as no-one can seem to agree on the best way to implement it. I thought that perhaps the experience of the recent barbenders strike might have been a useful clue for them but apparently not. In that strike the pro-Beijing trade union representing the striking workers didn't represent them properly (preferring to toe the government line) so the workers had to turn to the pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions. There is large wedge there for anyone who want to exploit it - the DAB will always do what Beijing wants, EVEN if it's not in the interests of their natural constituents (the urban poor, the aged, the working class). If a genuine pro-democracy, pro-working class party could emerge in Hong Kong (instead of the usual collection of smug Barristers) perhaps the DAB could have a lot of their support taken away...

Daisann McLane

Adrian said:

"If a genuine pro-democracy, pro-working class party could emerge in Hong Kong (instead of the usual collection of smug Barristers) perhaps the DAB could have a lot of their support taken away..."

That party exists: it is the League of Social Democrats, a splinter party formed last year by Legco members Leung Kwok Hung and Albert Chan Wai Yip, along with radio commentator Wong Yuk Man, district councillor Andrew To Kwan Hang and former Legco member and epidemiologist Dr. Lo Wing Lok.

The "LSD" (gotta do something about that English acronym, guys)has figured out that if the HK democracy movement is going to be more than a one-issue movement, it has to evolve in the direction of a Euro-style Socialist Democratic party.

They aren't the best organized group of politicians, certainly not known for their discipline, and their budget is bargain basement to say the least. But the party membership has grown rapidly in just a year. They just won 6 seats in the DC elections.

Legco member Leung Kwok Hung spent most of August out on the hustings with the striking bar-benders, incidentally.

mahathir_fan

Would the democratic process of Hong Kong speed up faster if Hong Kong is reunited with Guang Zhou?

Afterall, people in Guang Zhou already enjoy universal suffrage. Given that political parties in Hong Kong are already established, it would make it illegal for the Chinese government to close them down after reunification with Guang Zhou.

And then you guys can open up the market to the rest of China.

Anyway, technically, that is the way it was suppose to be, that Hong Kong be returned back to Guang Zhou since it was taken away from Guang Zhou.

Win or lose, it is good to see such developments. Imagine if Hong Kong is still a British colony, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. The British parliament will decide for you.

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