Before Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections yesterday, all the political parties made every effort to attract votes, promoting their own policies while attacking opponents at various forums.
Meanwhile, another battle has taken place in the form of a social movement against the “national education program” for primary and secondary school students. When the Hong Kong government made no concessions even after 90,000 demonstrators took to the streets on July 29, three high school students from Scholarism, a student group, started a hunger strike in front of the Central Government Offices on Aug. 30. On Sept. 1, 40,000 demonstrators gathered there to show their support, and some demonstrators joined the strike. On Sept. 3, the first day of the school year, 10,000 students, parents, and citizens gathered there once again. At this point, the organizers announced their intention to escalate the demonstration, and launched a school-wide strike to boycott the new program.
The two events are not completely unrelated. The pan-democracy camp supports the anti-national education program campaign, while the pro-communist camp supports the program to teach Hong Kongers to identify themselves with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In addition, since Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) came to power on July 1, he and his staff have been haunted by illegal construction projects as well as corruption scandals. Leung did little to address these problems, causing housing prices to soar to unprecedented levels within a very short time. There was a rush on property buying and the government rushed out 10 major measures to get things under control, but these were of little use, and the public became increasingly testy. This situation originally benefited the pro-democracy camp’s election campaign, but then bizarre internal struggles started to emerge.
The power struggles mostly occurred between the Democratic Party and People Power. The former is a relatively large party, and the latter is a relatively small party that separated from the League of Social Democrats due to differing attitudes toward the Democratic Party. Earlier, the Democratic Party and People Power had opposing stances on the “five-constituency resignation” and “de facto referendum” through the re-elections in these constituencies. Later, when the Democratic Party compromised with Beijing on the political reform plan, the People Power called it pro-communist and a fake democratic party. It even upheld a slogan, “snipe at the Democratic Party,” during the District Council election last year, although it was essentially criticizing all the pro-democracy parties except for itself. As a result, it sacrificed its own electoral success. It was prepared to see pro-communist candidates win rather than help the Democratic Party’s candidates. This caused the Democratic Party to accuse People Power of being the “B Team” for the pro-communist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
People Power has extreme views and does not attract moderate voters. It therefore relies on support from the pan-democracy camp voter base. It launched a large propaganda campaign against the Democrats, linking them to Chinese communists.
The Democratic Party, meanwhile, had adopted what were considered overly soft policies, and these turned off young voters. The youth vote, then, became the new target demographic for People Power’s campaign. The Democrats’ support ratings were significantly affected, causing them to declare war against People Power, accusing it of colluding with the CCP, receiving funds from pro-communist activists and allowing candidates to do business in China.