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Democratic Party in Catch-22 between Not to Run & Not to Boycott


This is translated from CitizenNews' weekly digest tracking Hong Kong's political news over the past week. (一周政情:民主黨橫又死直又死?

The most prominent political news of the past week is that the Democratic Party held a general meeting last Sunday and made an ambiguous decision on whether to run for the Legislative Council. Instead of actively fielding members to stand for election in their respective districts, or boycotting the election in response to public opinion, the party listened to the applications of its members and let the DP's Central Committee approve them one by one. However, candidates must have the support of 20 party members from their local branch and 5 members from each of the other branches. The threshold is much higher than in the past, and the intention seems to be to discourage individual members who are eager to run, so that the dilemma of whether to run or not to run will "die a natural death".

Lo Kin-hei, the chairman of the Democratic Party meets the press after the party's general meeting on Sept 26. 

There were two seemingly contradictory political signals from the establishment before and after the Democratic Party's general meeting. One is that before the general meeting, both Lo Man-tuen, a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive, warned the Democratic Party that it must stand for election or face serious consequences, and that it should be dissolved if it did not run in the election. On the other hand, Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai issued a letter on Wednesday (29 September) to 10 District Council members whose oaths had not been confirmed and who had to submit additional information, formally informing them that their oaths were invalid, including James James James, who has been a District Council member for 30 years, and Edith Leung Yik-ting, Vice Chairman of the Democratic Party. Together with the first batch of Hong Kong Island District Council members who took the oath, almost all of the Democratic Party's "election camp" (i.e. in support of still running for election) who supported staying in the Council were disqualified.

If the pro-Beijing camp wants the Democratic Party to run in the election as an embellishment, why did it take a strong stance against its "election camp" candidates, even those so-called friendly people who have a moderate orientation and a long-standing dialogue with Beijing? If they do not want the Democratic Party to run in the election, why do they let the authoritative people repeatedly say so and force the Democratic Party by threatening and persuading them?

In response to the contradictory political signals of the pro-Beijing camp, the Democratic Party made a contradictory decision last Sunday (28 Sep). The Democratic Party neither announced that it would abstain from the election nor announced that it would run in the election, but instead allowed its members to apply for the election and then submitted it to the Central Committee for consideration. This decision, which is in effect a delay, is clearly intended not to give the pro-Beijing camp the excuse that the Democratic Party would boycott the election, i.e. the party would oppose to the Beijing-led "perfect" electoral arrangements, incite voters to boycott the Legislative Council election and use the national security law and election law against more Democrats. At the same time, the Democratic Party also avoids offending its supporters, because it has conducted an opinion poll and knows that most of its supporters are prepared to cast a blank or null vote. If there is no democratic candidate in the constituency, they will not even cast a blank vote or a null vote, so as to reduce the turnout rate. This move of the Democratic Party, which dared not stand for election and dared not abstain from voting, was once ridiculed as "damned if you do and damned if you don't", fully reflecting the absurdity of the current political dilemma in Hong Kong.

The Democratic Party's decision, apart from "sitting on the fence" and procrastination, also has a deeper political meaning, that is, to force the pro-Beijing "communist" faction within the party to be exposed. It has always been the belief within the Central Committee and Standing Committee of the Democratic Party that Beijing has already sent people to infiltrate the various regional branches of the Democratic Party in order to get hold of the party's political plans. The fact that some people who had previously held important positions in the party had subsequently switched to the establishment also reinforced the belief among the core of the Democratic Party that the party had been extensively infiltrated. Therefore, the disqualification of the "election camp" supported by the party caucus is, in the eyes of the Democratic Party, not simply a ban on candidacy, but a total manipulation of the Democratic Party. Beijing seems to be trying to block the entry of the mainstream forces in the party, so that the few "pro-communist camp members within the Democratic Party" who have been co-opted can run for election and become the Central Standing Committee of the Democratic Party, and take over the old pan-democratic party and make it a 100% pro-Beijing team B (as opposed to Team A, such as DAB, FTU, etc).

From this political conspiracy theory, it is not difficult for outsiders to understand why the Democratic Party allows its members to stand for election on the one hand, but raises the threshold significantly on the other, requiring candidates to have the support of 20 members from their own branch and 5 members from other branches. This requirement is actually intended to force the "pro-communist camp members" and their allies to show themselves, so that the central committee can exercise discretion in dealing with them. For those who are ambitious, they may be prevented from running in the election by the lack of support within the party, forcing them to leave the party and start a new one, which is a de facto purge of the party. Even if one or two of the pro-communist camp members are finally allowed to enter the election, their chances of winning are slim if the party members do not actively support them and voters do not want to vote for them. By then, this will demonstrate to party members that to go against mainstream public opinion and force oneself to stand for election will only bring disgrace to oneself. This would achieve the pre-determined goal of allowing the issue of whether to run or not to run to "die a natural death".


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