A leading localist lawmaker in Hong Kong will helm an alliance of six and take the fight to village patriarchs who have long held political power in the New Territories, by contesting in elections to “democratise and reform rural governance”.
Legislative Council member Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and five others from the Village Charter Alliance are expected to vie for the position of rural representative in their respective villages in Yuen Long, Sai Kung, Sheung Shui, and Tai Po in the coming polls.
The group said villagers wanted change because the existing political systems in these areas had been under the grip of patriarchs in the rural committees and the Heung Yee Kuk – a powerful government-recognised body that represents the interests of New Territories residents.
“It is our first step. Whatever the results might be, we hope to be able to arouse people’s awareness and concern about rural politics. These rural patriarchs own much land in the New Territories and even the government needs to give them face when discussing land development issues,” said Chu, a resident of Yuen Kong San Tsuen in Yuen Long.
Another member in the alliance is William Liu Wai-lim, a student activist with Demosisto, which advocates “democratic self-determination” for Hong Kong. Liu is an indigenous villager of Sheung Shui Heung.
“In the past, there was rarely a pro-democracy voice in the village election. Many villagers did not feel they were involved. Those with good relations with the patriarchs will almost be guaranteed the seat,” Liu said.
Others on the alliance include Herve Bouvresse of Long Keng in Sai Kung; David Newbery of Hoi Ha in Tai Po; Carol Ho Kit-yee of Pak Kong in Sai Kung; and activist Paul Zimmerman of Pan Long Wan in Sai Kung.
Zimmerman is also a Southern District councillor. He had previously contested the Legco elections but did not win.
None of the members in the group have said they are prepared to comply with the new requirement for rural elections – in which all candidates have to sign a form acknowledging that they accept Hong Kong as an inalienable part of China.
Liu also said he would not indicate his political affiliation in the nomination form.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, also the head of Leung Tin Tsuen in Tuen Mun, said: “It is an open election and I would welcome anyone who is eligible to run if he wants to serve his fellow villagers.
“But if your aim is to bring urban-style politics to the rural villages, you are just creating and inviting trouble to your village. Village life is about peace and community bonding, not political hostility.”
Held every four years, village head elections decide seats in the lowest tier of rural politics.
Under the present system, a head of a village is given a seat on the district’s rural committee. A rural committee chairman, elected among village heads, gets a seat on the district council and will also become an ex officio member of the kuk.
The kuk has a seat in Legco, and accounts for 26 spots on the 1,200-member Election Committee tasked with choosing Hong Kong’s leader.