CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Election shakes up Hong Kong politics

HONG KONG (SE): Belying the entrance polls at the September 4 Legislative Council (LegCo) election, the public responded by voting not just for the traditional opposition Pan-Democrats, but a new category running under the name of Localists that advocates independence for Hong Kong.

A first-time candidate, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, whose main platform is justice in land issues and promoting a sustainable environmental, was a big winner.

The elections also saw young pro-democracy advocates win seats—including the youngest person ever to sit in the LegCo—as the special administrative region saw its highest voter turnout ever, 58 per cent, in the face of intensified interference in Hong Kong affairs from China.

Chu was accompanied in crossing the line into the LegCo by two other candidates advocating self-determination for Hong Kong sometime in the future.

The 38-year-old clocked up the biggest vote of any candidate, which surprised him, as one month ago his rating was one per cent.

But as a veteran advocate for many social issues, Chu challenged collusion between the government and business interests over land development in the New Territories rural districts. A somewhat dangerous vocation that has previously earned the former journalist death threats.

Less than one week after the election he is in hiding under police protection after receiving a renewed round of escalated death threats, which he described as being imminent.

Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing voiced his support on Facebook for Chu saying, “We are all Eddie Chu! Let us pray for the peace of the Chu family! Let us not be afraid of darkness and trust in the Lord of justice.”

The Justice and Peace Commission said that the Church should be prepared to shelter people who are being harassed while struggling to uphold justice.

It also helped organise a signature campaign, which by September 9 had collected over 1,300 endorsements from individuals and various Church groups.

The campaign was launched by the Hong Kong Christian Institute and was presented at the police headquarters on September 11. 

A political commentator, Bruce Lui Ping-kuen, said that focussing on several social issues gave Chu a good chance of attracting votes from a number of interest groups.

“Chu has a good image that makes him look fresh among other politicians with no party affiliation and sets him apart from the tiresome arguments of the political parties,” Lui said.

Paul Ng Wai-kit, the chairperson of the Justice and Peace Commission, believes voters wanted to see new faces and were willing to give them a try after the ineffectiveness of what he called undirected and unfocussed filibustering.

Ng said that because he addressed issues like land and housing, which have always been crucial in Hong Kong, Chu was able to attract votes.

Nathan Law Kwun-chung, the 23-year-old president of Demosisto, which advocates for independence as one option, has become the youngest member in LegCo history.

Two members of the pro-independence movement, Youngspiration, also held out veteran politicians to win seats.

Ng said this election result shows that some voters support ideas over experience.

Lui pointed out that what has occurred is not about the opposition passing on batons to the young ones. “It was the result of Beijing forcing young people to come out, as they felt it is useless communicating with the government,” he said.

“They may not be able to resist the pro-Beijing camp, but they can at least slow down the process of Beijing’s penetration into Hong Kong,” he said.

In addition, some candidates that in the lead up to the election claimed to have no party affiliation, were later revealed as having connections with Beijing.

More than 2.2 million people cast their votes to choose from 213 candidates.

It is a record turnout since Hong Kong ceased being a British colony in 1997.

What can generally be described as the opposition picked up 19 out of the possible 35 elected positions.

The pro-Beijing camp won more overall, but the opposition has 30 all up, including 11 from the functional constituencies and super seats, maintaining its power of veto over constitutional matters.

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