Over 180 people running in the upcoming district council elections are members of pro-Beijing or pan-democratic groups but claim to be “independent” candidates, according to an investigation by Ming Pao.

The local newspaper said 384 out of a total of 943 candidates in this year’s elections claimed to be have no political affiliation. However, many of them were found to have links to the city’s two main political camps.

NTAS and chairman Leung Che-cheung. /HKFP.

On the pro-establishment side, the New Territories Association of Societies (NTAS) said it endorsed 161 candidates. But only five candidates have publicly said they are members of NTAS, which was founded in 1985 and lists “Love China, Love Hong Kong” as part of its mission statement.

Leung Che-cheung, chairman of NTAS, told Ming Pao that it is up to individual members to decide whether to declare their affiliation to any organisation.

“I think it’s better [for candidates] to declare [their affiliation to NTAS] than not,” Leung said.

Meanwhile, a candidate who is a Hong Kong delegate to the National People’s Congress has also declared himself to be politically independent. Bunny Chan Chung-bun, who is also chairman of Positive Synergy and director of two other pro-Beijing groups, is running in Kwun Tong as an independent.

NPC member Bunny Chan Chung-bun.

In response to Ming Pao, Chan said he did not declare his NPC membership because his power in the national legislature was “not exercised in Hong Kong.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, 22 people belonging to organisations affiliated with pan-democrats are running as “independent” candidates.

This was according to Power for Democracy, which coordinates with all pan-democrat groups to make sure they don’t fight each other for the same seats.

‘The Third Force’

Many young organisations founded after last year’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests are testing the water in November’s district council elections. Dissatisfied with the city’s current political scene, these groups often refuse to be labelled pro-establishment or pan-democrat, and instead call themselves “the third force.”

Youngspiration’s Baggio Leung campaigning. Photo: Youngspiration via Facebook.

Among them is Youngspiration, a small group of fewer than 150 members founded in December. Its leader Baggio Leung Chung-heng told HKFP that he doesn’t like the “cold-war-like” mindset of the traditional political divide. “If pro-establishment and pan-democrat are two opposing sides of one line, we are a dot outside of this line,” Leung said.

Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.