A group of artists hoping to reform the Hong Kong Arts Development Council – a statutory body – have won a landslide victory, as they seized eight out of ten seats in an election for Council membership.

The Arts Development Council is tasked with allocating grants and promoting the arts industry. Of the 27 Council members, ten are elected every three years by various arts constituencies. The remaining 17 are government officials or appointed by the chief executive.

Pro-democracy songwriter Adrian Chow Pok-yin, best known for writing songs about Hong Kong politics for Canto-pop singer Kay Tse, is among the elected reformists. He beat incumbent member Barbara Fei Ming-yi – who has represented the music industry on the Council for two decades – by double the number of votes.

adrian chow fei ming-yi
Adrian Chow and Barbara Fei Ming-yi. Photo: Stand News.

Fei said it is good news that young people have taken over the task of developing the arts sector. She called Chow a competent successor who will “do an even better job” as a representative of the music industry. Chow thanked his supporters on social media and promised to bring change to the Council.

The election, which took place on Sunday and Monday, saw a record turnout of 2,456 voters – a 41.9 per cent turnout rate – nearly ten per cent more than the previous election.

Literary arts category

In the literary arts category, writer Chan Wai beat poet Ng Wing-tung by a large margin. Ng, who moved to Hong Kong from mainland China seven years ago, previously criticised Chan for participating in the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests. Calling his work “patriotic art,” Ng said Hong Kong is part of China, and that writers should be patriotic.

chan wai ng wing-tung
Chan Wai (left) and Ng Wing-tung (right). File Photo: Stand News.

Ng also said that he does not read books on the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, which he said is an internal affair of China. “Hong Kong’s literacy arts industry cannot be led by Chan, or else it would become like the legislature where two clowns insulted Chinese people as ‘Chee-na.’ In any case, no pro-Occupy figures should be elected,” Ng said at a debate with Chan.

Chan told Stand News that the literary arts sector “cannot afford to lose” in the Council election as literature is an important voice of the city. She said that the election results demonstrate democratic values.

Drama category

Another highlight of the election was the battle in the drama category between famous actor Anthony Wong Chau-sang and first-time contender Indy Lee, instructor of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Lee defeated Wong, an incumbent member of the Council, by over 400 votes.

Wong, who has made pro-establishment statements on multiple occasions, said the record voter turnout showed that more people in the industry care about the Council’s work.

arts development council adrian chow
The eight elected reformists. Photo: Stand News.

The actor added that he “regrets” not being able to make Stage Technical Arts a separate sector. He apologised to electors and expressed hope that Lee would follow up on the issue.

The other elected reformists are artist Chan Kam-shing, dancer Mui Cheuk-yin, and arts administrator Ribble Chung Siu-mui.

The remaining four categories did not hold an election due to a lack of contestants. Arts critic Lo Wai-luk and arts educator Leung Sung-yum belong to the reformist camp, while film producer Ellen Pau and Chinese opera actor Seto Yok were automatically elected to the Council under the film arts and Xiqu categories.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.