Hong Kong Democrats Make Small Gains in Poll


2004.09.13
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HONG KONG—Pro-democracy parties in Hong Kong made small gains in Sunday's Legislative Council elections but said mass protests of July 1 had failed to translate into stronger support for their candidates.

"I came here to protest at the chaotic manner of the handling of the elections."

"The Democratic Party had initially attempted to win six seats in the New Territories West Constituency, but has failed to so do," Democratic Party member Albert Ho told reporters when the results were announced Monday. Ho urged his party to draw lessons from the result.

Pro-democracy candidates won 18 directly elected seats, just one more than in the last election and well below expectations in a record 55.6 percent voter turnout.

The pro-Beijing camp won 12 of the 30 directly elected seats compared with just seven in 2000, which pro-Beijing commentators said was a vote for stability on the part of Hong Kong people.

Colorful candidates

Among the victorious candidates were former radio talkshow host Albert Cheng, whose former show "Teacup in a Storm" was suspended during campaigning, and prominent pro-democracy activist "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, who specializes in direct action and heckling government officials.

Leung immediately complained to government officials about delays and insufficient ballot boxes during the elections. "I came here to protest at the chaotic manner of the handling of the elections," Leung told RFA's Mandarin service outside government offices.

"The July 1 effect failed to increase the number of votes...New voters do not appear to support the pro-democracy camp," leader of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions Lee Cheuk-yan told reporters. "Therefore, the pro-democracy camp must review its strategy and draw lessons from the current election."

"I am disappointed. It shows how unacceptable the electoral system is," said Martin Lee, ex-chairman of the Democratic Party and figurehead of the pro-democracy camp.

Of the 60 seats in Hong Kong Legislative Council, only 30 are returned through direct ballot via geographical constituencies, up from 25 in the 2000 elections. The remaining 30 are returned though professional and business "functional constituencies", which emphasize stability and strong business ties with China.

"We are watching the increasing plurality of Hong Kong politics, and we think it is an important starting point in the growing development of a pluralistic democracy."

Vote for stability

"Citizens have given us a vote of confidence," Ma Lik, chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, told reporters.

Official Chinese media praised the election, saying it was the most democratic in the history of the former British colony, which was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997.

"The raising of the number of the directly elected members is believed to be a milestone of Hong Kong's constitutional development according to the Basic Law," China’s official Xinhua news agency said. "The current election is believed to be the most democratic election in Hong Kong's history."

And it referred to the possibility of universal suffrage at an undisclosed point in the future.

China recently ruled out the possiblity of full and direct elections to the legislature and for the Chief Executive in 2007 and 2008.

Beijing slows pace

The heavy-handed ruling prompted hundreds of thousands to take to the streets on the anniversary of the handover July 1, amid calls for more democracy.

"The Basic Law stipulates that the ultimate aim is the election of the total number of members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage," Xinhua said.

The entire campaign was marred by scandal and allegations of Beijing-backed intimidation of pro-democracy camp supporters. The polling process itself was also strongly criticized.

Hong Kong officials pledged to investigate complaints of improper handling of ballot boxes noted by candidate Margaret Ng and the New York-based Human Rights Watch Sunday.

Taiwan, under pressure from Beijing to re-unify with mainland China under the same "One country, two systems" formula extended to Hong Kong, was watching developments closely, officials said.

"We are watching the increasing plurality of Hong Kong politics, and we think it is an important starting point in the growing development of a pluralistic democracy." Chiu Tai-san, vice chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, told a news conference Monday.

On the Web:

Election Commission news conference (Cantonese, video)

Beijing's push for patriotism: China's Olympic heroes visit Hong Kong just before poll (Cantonese, video)

People's Liberation Army display on Aug. 1 (Cantonese, video)

Complete list of newly elected Legislative Councillors

Hong Kong government voter turnout figures

Election Affairs Commission Chairman's Q and A with reporters

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