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Will Democratic Party Still Run in the Election under Suppression?


This is translated from CitizenNews' weekly digest tracking Hong Kong's political news over the past week. (一周政情:民主黨受盡壓迫仍要參選?

In the past week, one of the more notable political stories was that former Democratic Party Chairman Wu Chi-wai, who was still in remand, was refused by the Correctional Services Department (CSD) to attend his father's funeral. Wu eventually applied to the High Court for short term bail so that he could bid farewell to his late father with his family. The incident aroused public concern, partly because CSD was unkind. Many pro-Beijing camp members even took the opportunity to add insult to injury, sprinkling a touch of sadness to the political purge against the pan-democrats. In addition, former Democratic Party lawmaker Fred Li still claims that Beijing announced that they want the Democratic Party to run for the LegCo, adding a bit of weirdness to the political purge of the pan-democrats.

The Democratic Party is one of the stronger political parties in the pan-democratic camp, with a larger number of seats in the legislature and a longer history. Although the Democratic Party is an opposition party, it has a long-standing relationship of communication and dialogue with the pro-Beijing parties, the top echelons of the SAR government, and even Beijing. For this reason, most young pan-democratic voters do not like the Democratic Party, believing that the party is easy to compromise and will be bought by the pro-Beijing camp. The Democratic Party is caught in the middle, and is somewhat at odds with both sides.

In the aftermath of the #PrimariesArrest, a number of core members of the Democratic Party were charged with subversion offences. With the exception of Helena Wong, others were denied bail and face a long period of imprisonment without a conviction. Supporters were saddened and outraged by what happened to Wu Chi-wai, Lam Cheuk-ting, Andrew Wan Siu-kin and Andrew Chiu Ka-yin. Although James To and Roy Kwong Chun-yu, the 2 Super District Council candidates, have not been charged for the time being, their travel documents have been surrendered after their arrest. The duo have to report to the police station regularly and can be charged at any time. Under such adverse circumstances, it is hard to imagine that the Democratic Party still has the impetus and room to stand for election. However, at a time when the Democratic Party is suffering from political oppression and in dire straits, Fred Li has openly called on the Democratic Party to continue to run in the Legislative Council elections at the end of this year, which makes the future development of the Democratic Party interesting.

Whether there is room for the Democratic Party to stand for election and whether the Democratic Party is willing to stand for election are two related but not identical issues. The question of whether there is room to stand for election is related to how Beijing, under the new political rules, will vet and qualify political parties that used to be in the opposition camp; whether they will be classified as unpatriotic and disqualified to reinforce the deterrent effect, or whether they will be treated differently, so as to divide and conquer, and keep some obedient people as decorative political tokens. At present, it seems that Beijing's political agents in Hong Kong are still mainly hostile towards the Democratic Party and show no sign of relaxing their stance. If Beijing had any intention of encouraging the Democratic Party to run in the election, it would have been easy to do a favour by allowing Wu Chi-wai to attend his father's funeral in the first place. To refuse even such a small favour is to send a political message to the outside world that the party has been driven to extinction. [HKCT note: Wu was granted bail with certain conditions, including that he cannot make contact with other people, only a certain number of family members can attend the funeral, the funeral should be of private nature, gag order on the time, route, location from the detaining premises to the funeral and Wu's return to the premises once the funeral is over.]

Wu Chi-wai leaves the Diamond Hill Funeral Parlour aftering attending his father's funeral escorted by police on 8 May. EYEPRESS Photo

As to whether Democrats are willing to run for the election, it depends on how the party will judge the attitude of its core members and supporters. At present, it seems that Fred Li has received relatively little response and the Democratic Party has great reservations about running in the election. Apart from the fact that the core members are facing imprisonment and their hatred towards those in power cannot be dispelled, the more important reason is that the whole pan-democratic camp is completely disappointed with "one country, two systems and Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong". If there is an election, pan-democratic voters will tend to cast blank or abstention votes as a sign of protest, which is why the government has hastily drafted a bill to prohibit calls for blank or abstention votes. In such a political climate, if the Democratic Party continues to field candidates, they may be reviled by the pan-democratic voters and become the perpetual sinners for betraying democracy.


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