The future of Demosistō hangs in the balance.
Its Legislative Council hopeful Agnes Chow Ting was barred from running in the by-elections in March. Then it was reported that the government intends to apply the same vetting rules used in the Legco polls to the District Council elections next year. This means that a candidate’s political stance will be considered a factor in determining whether he or she is eligible to run.
If true, Demosistō would indeed be facing an uncertain future. Its candidates are very likely to be banned again from running for District Council seats because the party advocates “self-determination” for Hong Kong.
In order to break this all-out political blockade imposed upon Demosistō by the government, some political observers suggest that it form a new political party that will not advocate or promote “self-determination”.
Demosistō has serious reservations about this idea, however. Establishing a new party solely as an election vehicle might appear too deliberate.
Besides, as it has pointed out, whether the government will go easy on candidates of this spin-off and let them run in the DC elections remains unknown.
Instead, the party would follow the same “Plan B” it adopted in the Legco by-elections in March.
Once its candidate is barred from running in the DC elections, Demosistō would seek and support a “non-Demosistō” candidate who holds a close relationship with the party. This candidate, if victorious, would give back to Demosistō the resources he or she enjoys in the district council.
This strategy has been referred to as the “Au Nok-hin model”. Au is a Southern District Council member with no political affiliation. After Demosistō’s Chow was barred from running in the Legco by-election based on her political stance, Au, who sees eye to eye with Chow and other prominent figures of Demosistō on a lot of issues, quickly assumed the candidacy and ran on her behalf.
Recently there has been talk that Demosistō is planning to run in three different constituencies in the Southern District in the upcoming DC elections.
In the meantime, Joshua Wong Chi-fung, secretary-general of Demosistō, told media that he would continue to commit himself to community affairs regardless of whether he would be disqualified again or not, suggesting that he may be eyeing the 2019 DC elections as well.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 11
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
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