Between a rock and a hard place — Hong Kong’s democrats

Between a rock and a hard place — Hong Kong’s democrats

  • A view of Hong Kong politics in the wake of the pan-democratic primaries and recent postponement of the Legislative Council elections.

To say that Hong Kong’s democrats are in a tough spot would be a slight understatement. A little over three weeks ago, the democrats in the city held their primaries for the September Legislative Council elections. Criticized by pro-Establishment forces and Beijing for being an ostensible “provocation” of the current electoral system, the pan-democratic camp sought to generate viable candidates that would receive the blessing of its primary electorate, in preparation for the official race, originally scheduled for September 6 (since postponed to next year). With a historic total of more than  610,000 voters participating in the primaries, the event welcomed a wide spectrum of contenders, ranging from moderate anti-Establishment figures to outspoken ethnic minority advocates to radicals and localists, with the latter drawing support primarily from Hong Kong’s politically fervent youth.

Traditional democrats floundered, as compared with newer-generation democratic lawmakers and localist activists who had featured far more prominently, and were perceived as thus having contributed more, under the public spotlight over the anti-extradition bill protests. Many within the pan-democratic base saw the meeker, subdued responses of the “old hacks” during the movement as signs of weakness, capitulation to the authorities, and fundamental deviance from the movement. Existing animosity toward the elder democrats — for their alleged moral prudishness and inefficacy — manifested in the poor performances of lawmakers typecast as reticent and “conservative” — such as Dr. Helena Wong Pik-Wan, widely panned for her alleged lack of involvement with the movement (despite her issuing a plethora of strongly worded public statements in the past), and the longstanding, “first-generation radical” Leung Kwok Hung.