Whoever said the internet has changed politics never visited Lantau. The battle for Hong Kong’s biggest electoral district is strictly analogue. No Twitter wars here. Issues and platforms are less important in Lantau’s murky politics than patronage, clan loyalties and personal feuds.
The island rural committees dominate both local politics and the Island District Council (IDC). Although the government no longer appoints councillors, rural committee heads are automatically granted seats. As well as the ten elected members the Islands Council will have eight ex officio members from the rural committees – pretty much a lock.
Randy Yu, the rural committee candidate for Lantau and, if he wins, the likely next IDC chairman, should also be a lock. But the retirement of the unlamented Rainbow Wong,the development controversies and the Occupy fallout have made this contest interesting.
Wong comfortably won the last election against green candidate Rosa Ma, but you might bet against him if he were running this time against three candidates amid rising community dissatisfaction. The larger field of candidates means the turnout will likely be higher than 2011 and probably higher than in 2007 when 3,600 voted.
Yu is a much more capable candidate than Wong, is well-backed and starts as favourite. There are no opinion polls to guide us, though. The closest we have are two surveys on the road opening that both found 90% against. Even assuming a large margin of error, that’s significant opposition to a policy with Randy Yu’s name on it.
Final point. The winner is simply the one with the most votes, so it is possible to win with less than 50% support.
The form guide:
Candidate No 1. Randy Yu 余漢坤
His pitch: The pro-government, pro-development rural committee candidate. Calls for development not to be rushed and for residents’ voices to be heard.
Why he might win: Backed by the rural power brokers in Lantau and Hong Kong; is known throughout the island; has met all the interest groups and pitched something to them.
Why he might not: Represents the status quo and some unpopular measures. Despite his appeals for development to keep pace with public opinion, he voted for the incinerator and the road-opening.
Candidate No. 2. Lau King Cheung 劉敬彰
His pitch: Tai O-based, appealing to disaffected indigenous residents over the road-opening; improved sewage and public transport ferry; revitalisation of agricultural land; more transparency in government decision-making.
Why he might win: As well as appealing as alternative for indigenous residents, also has some appeal to green voters.
Why he might not: Known in Tai O and other villages down-island, but little-known in Mui Wo.
Candidate No. 3. Yuen Yuk Wah 袁玉華
His pitch: Pro-development, non-indigenous Chinese who is a challenger to current rural leaders; calling for government accountability. Allied to Sunny Cheung, Chung Hau North village head who defeated Rainbow Wong team in last two village polls.
Why he might win: Is popular among his base in Mui Wo; seen as leader who gets things done and provides alternative to current leadership.
Why he might not: The reverse of Lau: not well-known outside Mui Wo.
Candidate No. 4. Clara Tam Sau Ngor 譚秀娥
Her pitch: The pro-environment, pro-democracy candidate. Opposed to major development projects; calls for participatory politics and transparent decision-making.
Why she might win: Clearly differentiated from the other three, especially #1 and #3, and well-placed to benefit from disquiet over development as well as support for specific green issues.
Why she might not: Campaigning on limited resources.