Middle-class voters on Hong Kong Island stayed loyal to the pro-democracy bloc and helped Au Nok-hin win the seat in Sunday’s Legislative Council by-election, while those living in the richest and poorest neighbourhoods backed pro-establishment candidate Judy Chan Ka-pui.
The Post’s analysis found Au, who got 50.7 per cent of valid votes compared to Chan’s 47.2 per cent vote share, had solid appeal in areas with “blue chip housing estates” or large scale private developments catering to middle-income families. In contrast, Chan’s top four strongholds were affluent areas on the island.
The island is the city’s most iconic area – with the seat of government, the major financial and business district and a host of tourist and leisure attractions.
It is also home to over 1.2 million people – of whom 623,273 are registered voters. Overall, they have the highest education levels across all constituencies and tend to be more evenly split across the political divide, though in previous polls they favoured pro-democracy parties.
Thus, pundits wondered if the disqualification of six pan-democrat lawmakers over an oath-taking saga, which triggered the by-election, and the subsequent ban on young activist Agnes Chow Ting from contesting, would translate into more support for Au.
But the narrow gap between him and Chan – she lost by 9,547 votes – suggested this was not the case.
Chan bagged two-thirds of votes cast in the Bays Area, which has a spread of luxurious residences, such as those built along Tai Tam Reservoir Road and Repulse Bay. Some 65.8 per cent of votes from the Peak and 63 per cent of votes in Happy Valley also went to her.
Political scientist Dr Chung Kim-wah said it was possible that those in richer districts had opted for the conservative candidate, as “they probably have too many vested interests and prefer less confrontation with the government”.
Interestingly, Chan, who sits on the Southern District Council to scrutinise government funding and coordinate community initiatives, also won over lower-income voters living in public housing.
She got 58.3 per cent of votes in the Ap Lei Chau Estate, 57.4 per cent in part of the Yiu Tung Estate in Shau Kei Wan and 56.9 per cent in Hing Wah (I) Estate in Chai Wan.
Chung put this down to how the pro-establishment bloc had spent lots of resources to serve public housing estates over the years.
It had become increasingly difficult for the pan-democrats to win the hearts and minds of lower-income voters, he said.
In a testament to Au’s popularity with middle-income voters, he snatched South Horizons West by about 7.7 percentage points from Chan, despite her being the area’s district councillor.
Au’s best performance was in the area he serves as a district councillor – Lei Tung Estate. He got 64.4 per cent of votes there.
At the four Taikoo Shing polling stations – an area that was the stronghold of New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee in the 2016 Legislative Council election – Au bagged between 54.5 per cent and 58.5 cent of votes, with a similar performance in Kornhill and Chi Fu Fa Yuen.
He also got more than half of votes in areas in the Central and Western districts of Hong Kong, a bastion of the Democratic Party, which he quit last year.
Chung said bourgeois island residents tended to care more about preserving Hong Kong’s core values and had always been the target of pan-democrats.
Au’s victory in Taikoo Shing, he mused, might be fuelled by anger towards the disqualifications.
Meanwhile, a Hong Kong Island voter was expected to mount a judicial review on Tuesday challenging the validity of Au Nok-hin’s nomination as a candidate in the by-election. Former pro-government legislator Wong Kwok-hing, who is supporting the voter, said several complaints had been filed to the Registration and Electoral Office and the Electoral Affairs Commission in the past two weeks, questioning the electoral authorities’ decision to allow Au to run. But there had been no response. Wong said they wanted the court to handle their application before Au’s swearing in. Wong claimed Au had in a past protest burned a copy of the Basic Law and he had previously said he supported self-determination and thus he should not have been qualified as a candidate.
A government spokesman said it would not comment on the planned legal action. But the spokesman noted in a statement that “upholding the Basic Law is a basic legal duty of a legislator” and that advocating independence or self-determination “cannot possibly” comply with the requirement of the Legislative Council Ordinance that requires a candidate to make a declaration to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR.