The pan-democratic camp won control of 17 out of 18 District Councils in Hong Kong’s 24 November elections, almost wiping out the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB).
The only council held by the pro-establishment camp was the Islands district, where 8 out of 18 seats were automatically assigned to pro-establishment village heads.
2.94 million (71.2% of eligible voters) voted in the Pan-Democrats and other independent democrats in nearly 400 out of 452 seats, with the DAB winning only 58 seats. Four years ago, the pan-democrats failed to win a single council and were heavily marginalised by the DAB.
The democratic camp won around 57% of the total vote, and our opponents 42%. These elections were based on a UK single-member constituency, first-past-the-post system, so in straight one-to-one contests,in most of the constituencies of around 5,000 to 10,000 voters, the DAB were massacred.
There does not appear to be a noticeable difference in results between richer and poorer districts.
In next September’s Legislative Council, there are only 30 directly elected seats in five large multi-member constituencies, so neither pro nor anti-establishment parties can win similar landslide victories easily.
The other 30 Legco seats are reserved for functional constituencies such as the banking and insurance industry sectors, the medical and legal professions etc., creating a further pro-establishment buffer. Any motion to be passed in Legco requires a majority vote in both of the two sections, and that almost guarantees the Hong Kong government an easy ride.
Nevertheless, the dramatic win on 24 November is a great slap in the face for Carrie Lam and her government. President Xi and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders must also be very concerned, not least about the very poor quality reports they gets from their supporters in Hong Kong. More than once, Beijing has been badly misinformed.
The pan-democratic camp’s largest group is the Democratic Party, which won 91 seats. It was set up shortly after the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, and generally takes a liberal democratic position clearly in opposition to the CCP. It is not to be confused with Hong Kong’s Liberal Party which is a pro-establishment pro-business party.
Many of the Democratic Party’s key members have over the years also been on the committee that has organised annual rallies for the past 30 years to commemorate 4 June. Other than that, it does not take a pro-working-class stance against the billionaires.
The next largest party is the Civic Party, with 32 seats won out of 36 contested, more strident in campaigning for civil liberties but also not opposed to big business.
The Hong Kong Labour Party was set up in 2011, in an attempt to be modelled on the UK Party. It won all seven of its contested seats. The Labour Party generally takes a more left-leaning position in regard to workers’ rights.
There are many other newer parties and groups in the pan-democratic camp, as well as some veterans like Leung Yiu Chung to the left of the mainstream parties.
Long Hair Leung Kwok Hung, leader of the League of Social Democrats, who has been on Legco for many years and has campaigned for decades on an anti-Stalinist Marxist platform, narrowly failed to unseat the DAB leader Starry Lee from her district seat. He and five other pro-democracy legislators were disqualified from taking their Legco seats in June 2017 because of the manner in which they took their oath of office.
During the election period, street protesters refrained from their previous confrontational tactics, leaving the peaceful civil disobedience movement to cast its votes with telling effect.
What happens next will be keenly monitored by all sides. This new group of nearly 400 elected District Councillors and their active campaigners will naturally become a focus for political debate on the way forward.
Meanwhile the police have held back from storming the Poly University building, now down to fewer than 100 protesters still inside. The police appeared to tone down their approach and have offered not to immediately arrest those who agree to come out, citing as their reason concerns for the health of the weakened and exhausted protesters.
There may be a possibility that this very long siege could come to an end without casualties.