The electrician running for a seat in Hong Kong’s legislature is proof that candidates in Sunday’s “all patriots” polls come from a range of social and political groups, Beijing’s top man on Hong Kong affairs has said.
Vincent Diu Sing-hung, an electrician by trade, is a political novice but is throwing himself in at the deep end. He is running in the Legislative Council’s (LegCo) Election Committee constituency, competing against 50 other candidates for a total of 40 seats. His competitors include veterans like DAB vice chair Horace Cheung and pro-Beijing firebrand, Junius Ho.
Diu was heralded by Xia Baolong, Beijing’s top man on Hong Kong affairs, as an example of the competition and diversity in this year’s LegCo race, a comment which he refused to take as a forecast of victory. “I take it with a normal heart,” he said, denying he had received further accolades or advice from Beijing’s office in Hong Kong.
These 40 lawmakers, out of a revamped 90-seat LegCo , will be selected by 1,500 election committee members, who also wield the power to nominate candidates and next March to elect the next chief executive for the city. Directly-elected geographic seats have been sharply reduced.
“Whatever you say about democracy, what’s important is people’s livelihoods,” Diu told HKFP in an interview on Monday. “Democracy is useless if we can’t solve people’s daily needs. This is what I think as an ordinary grassroots citizen.”
If elected, Diu said he hoped he and other lawmakers would “stay practical” and not “argue for the sake of arguing,” a reference to deep-seated divisions between pro-democracy and pro-establishment lawmakers in the city’s legislature – in the days before most of the city’s democrats were disqualified or put behind bars in an ongoing national security crackdown.
Diu, a native of Guangdong, came to Hong Kong in 1987 at age 14. His father was from the city but married his mother in the mainland. The family and their three children – Diu being the youngest – reunited in Hong Kong and lived in a public housing estate in Ma On Shan, where he still lives with his family.
Diu had worked on the mainland and then as a tour guide in Hong Kong until 2015, when he became a contract electrician for property development projects in the city. Since 2017, he has been a member of the executive committee of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Electrical Engineering and Appliances Trade Workers Union. This in turn is allied to the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions (FLU), a pro-establishment group similar to the staunchly Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (FTU).
While some election hopefuls struggled to secure the minimum 10 nominations from Election Committee members needed to join the race – such as those under the wing of Ronny Tong, adviser to the chief executive – Diu had no problems.
As a “voice for grassroot workers,” his candidacy was supported by nominations from five businessmen, either chairmen or directors of companies. It was also backed by the very people competing against him: lawmaker Michael Luk of the FTU running in the same constituency as Diu was among 13 people signing his nomination forms. A board member of the FLU also signed for Diu, even though its chairman Lam Chun-sing is another competitor.
‘A big harmonious mix’
But Diu said he doesn’t consider Luk, a veteran lawmaker for the labour sector, as a rival. “We are not competing. We communicate and work together,” he said. Despite differences, “we can also set aside these differences.” It would be ideal for them to enter the legislature together as voices for workers and the grassroots, he said.
Instead of heated arguments and debates, Diu said he hopes the next legislature will contain diverse voices who “sit together to discuss” respectfully. While candidates traditionally appealed to voters in their respective special interest sectors or canvassed on the streets, those in the new Election Committee constituency seek support through meet-and-greets with about 1,500 voters from the 40 sectors in the committee, during dozens of public as well as closed-door meetings.
Diu has attended about 40 of these meetings and events, according to a campaign staffer.
“In the past, labour sector [candidates] in the functional constituencies talked only to those also in the labour sector, but less with those in the business sector,” Diu said. “This time it became a big harmonious mix.”
Diu’s campaign platform includes increasing support for unemployed and underemployed workers through short-term jobs and vocational training; increasing the public housing supply; and cutting waiting times at public hospitals. He also advocates that people find jobs in the “Greater Bay Area” covering the mainland and Hong Kong and seeks the resumption of quarantine-free travel with the mainland.
Diu said he would try to “strike a balance” with business sectors on the minimum wage. It could be raised from HK$37.50 to HK$40 an hour depending how the economy improves, he hopes, even though for somebody working 50 hours a week, this only means raising their income from HK$7,500 to HK$8,000 per month. “I believe many employers have a conscience and wouldn’t really pay that little,” Diu said.
About 16,500 people earned HK$37.50 an hour in mid-2020, while 281,200 earned less than HK$40, according to census data.
Diu previously expressed support for Chief Executive Carrie Lam, based on her last policy address with its long-term land policies. But if she had done well during her tenure, “then Hong Kong would not have so many problems,” he said with a laugh.
There are issues on which Diu feels he cannot compromise, despite professing willingness to seek consensus in the legislature. He takes exception to a proposal to grant an amnesty to those given a prison sentence of less than two years over protest-related offences from 2019 – something candidate Mandy Tam had called for in an open letter to the chief executive．
“The law should be fair for everyone,” Diu said. “How can you destroy a society in order to achieve your goals?”
“I really cannot accept it if you are causing great chaos to the whole of society for the sake of your ideals.”
A full list of candidates running in the election committee constituency can be viewed here.
- Districts included: Kowloon City District and the north-western part of Wong Tai Sin
- Projected population as at June 2021: 778,900
- Number of registered voters: 454,179
- Starry Lee Wai-king: Lee is the current chair of the pro-Beijing DAB.
- Kitson Yang Wing-kit: Yang is a pro-establishment candidate representing the Kowloon Federation of Associations.
- Mandy Tam Heung-man: Tam describes herself as a member of the democratic bloc. She was once a member of the Civic Party but is running as an independent.
More about Beijing’s election overhaul – click to view
In March, 2021, Beijing passed legislation to ensure “patriots” govern Hong Kong. The move reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates. The Hong Kong government said the overhaul would ensure the city’s stability and prosperity. But the changes also prompted international condemnation, as it makes it near-impossible for pro-democracy candidates to stand.
Where are Hong Kong’s opposition figures? – click to view
Major pan-democracy groups have not put forward any candidates following the Beijing-led overhaul. Most of the city’s opposition figures remain behind bars, are abroad in self-exile, have quit politics or are barred from running.
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