One thing all the candidates running this year have in common is that they adhere to Beijing’s red lines: only a few have declared themselves “pro-democracy.”
As a result, they have avoided political positions that could lead to their disqualification or even imprisonment, such as calling for Hong Kong’s independence or foreign sanctions on Hong Kong government officials.
The absence of a strong mainstream opposition in Hong Kong’s new electoral landscape has created an unusual political twist: Beijing’s representatives and allies, who would normally be their rivals, are providing assistance to these outside candidates.
When it comes to supporting candidates, however, it is limited to aiding them in passing the gruelling nomination process, not winning votes on Election Day.
According to one candidate, Wong Sing-chi, it was important to fight for democracy by running for office even if the current system was flawed in some way. For those who have been sentenced to prison as a result of nonviolent protest, he said he would advocate for an amnesty, as well as a reduction in the use of a national security law.
The Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government, Beijing’s increasingly assertive arm in the city, asked Mr. Wong twice this year if he would run for office. In any case, he insisted that he was the one who made the decision to go it alone. Lo Man-tuen, a prominent pro-Beijing voice on the election committee, helped him secure enough nominations from the body to run after he had done so, giving him a powerful boost.
There is no doubt in my mind that they dislike my candidacy, but they also want me to run so that there are other voices in the debate,” Wong told reporters.
Some voters were sceptical of pro-Beijing politicians, which motivated Adrian Lau to run for the legislative council in the 2019 pro-democracy wave.