A pro-democracy grassroots group will allow its members to contest Hong Kong’s upcoming legislative elections, after the city’s largest democratic party effectively shunned the “patriots-only” polls mandated by Beijing.
The Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood announced on Thursday that members may sign up to run in the Legislative Council (LegCo) election on December 19, pending final approval from its executive committee next Saturday.
It was a “tough decision” following a roughly two-hour-long meeting, said the association’s acting chairman and former district councillor Yeung Yuk. He said some supporters believed that taking part in the election would be “ineffectual,” while others wanted the group to be able to express opinions on livelihood issues in the future LegCo.
“We don’t want the Legislative Council to have one type of voice only,” Yeung told reporters on Thursday.
The acting leader told RTHK on Friday the group had heard conflicting opinions about whether to take part in the polls, saying they would lose some supporters whatever they decided.
“Different districts had different public opinions. Some said they would keep supporting us after we had worked on livelihood issues for so many years. But others questioned why we would still run in the election under those rules and such a political climate,” Yeung said.
Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy party, the Democratic Party, has announced that none of its members met an internal application deadline to stand as candidates .
Hong Kong saw a major overhaul of its electoral system in May, when the legislature approved Beijing-drafted changes that aimed to ensure only “patriots” administer the city. Elections expert had described the revamp as a “regression of democracy,” with the percentage of directly-elected geographical seats falling from 50 per cent to around 20 per cent.
There will also be a multi-layer vetting system that involves the police and the government’s national security committee, along with other restrictions.
‘We will do our best’
Asked to what extent the association could represent the pro-democracy camp if some members were elected, Yeung admitted he was uncertain. The “moderate” organisation could at least speak for its grassroots supporters, he said.
“We all know that under the present political space, there is difficulty if you want to strive for democracy. I can only say that we will do our best,” he said, adding the association would not coordinate with groups such as the more establishment-leaning Path of Democracy or Third Side in the polls.
One of the members of the livelihood association, Kalvin Ho, is among 47 democrats charged with conspiracy to commit subversion under the Beijing-imposed national security law. He was one of the few that were granted bail pending trial in the High Court.
The nomination period is from October 30-November 12. Potential candidates in the geographical constituencies must secure nominations from at least 100 but not more than 200 registered voters. They must also be nominated by at least 10 but no more than 20 members of the new pro-Beijing Election Committee, including a minimum of two members from each of the committee’s five sectors.