Keep friends close, enemies closer: Localist attempts to play nice disintegrate

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The two localist electoral alliances running in the upcoming LegCo elections have been trying to avoid even the slightest confrontation against each other. Their supporters have another idea.

The Youngspiration-led LegCo electoral alliance is fighting an uphill battle as Edward Leung Tin-kei (梁天琦)’s blessing, in the form of endorsement, now seems more like a curse in disguise.

Following the disqualification of Leung, the Hong Kong Indigenous (HKI) champion who polled well in the February by-election,  launched their ‘Plan B’: supporting Sixtus ‘Baggio’ Leung Chung-hang (梁頌恆) of Youngspiration in the New Territories East election.

The rationale was clear. Given Edward Leung’s overwhelming popularity across the localist spectrum, Youngspiration and HKI hoped that his supporters would turn to vote for Youngspiration’s candidates, namely Baggio Leung, Kenny Wong Chun-kit (黃俊傑) in New Territories West, Yau Wai-ching (游蕙禎) in Kowloon West, and Chan Chak-to (陳澤滔) in Kowloon East. Instead, it seems events have conspired to thwart the best of their intentions.

Events have conspired to thwart the best of their intentions.

Youngspiration in trouble

For Youngspiration, the challenge to appeal to adherents of Edward Leung comes in two forms. Many fans of HKI have raised doubts over Youngspiration’s commitment to a more radical platform similar to that of HKI, and its candidates are struggling to meet the high expectations set by Edward Leung in public debates.

In the past week, Wong allegedly leaked Youngspiration’s plan to invite Taiwanese separatist group New Power Party (時代力量) to Hong Kong to Local Press, a localist news outlet in Hong Kong. After Local Press published the interview, Wong denied the plan and accused Local Press of releasing false information. Wong’s reaction was frowned upon by Local Press’s readership, whereas disappointment soon escalated to online outrage, forcing Wong to apologise and resign as Youngspiration’s spokesperson.

Localist rivals have capitalised on these missteps online, including supporters of the Civic Passion-Proletariat Political Institute-Hong Kong Resurgence Order (CP-PPI-HKRO) coalition. This coalition is competing fiercely  with the Youngspiration-led alliance in four geographical constituencies. Although candidates from both localist factions have been avoiding clashes – unlike the pan-democrats whose disunion is surfacing in the District Council (Second) ‘super seat’ election – their supporters are not holding back, with Youngspiration often being on the receiving end of their derision.

In the case of an unfortunate defeat in the election, Youngspiration’s core members might have to take blame and the group might risk disintegration.

The true winner

In light of recent internal turmoil, localists – especially Youngspiration – are even more desperate for a LegCo seat. In the case of an unfortunate defeat in the election, Youngspiration’s core members might have to take blame and the group might risk disintegration. Given the leadership crisis that has surfaced through recent events, a post-election shake-up seems almost inevitable. Kenny Wong may be the group’s first member to pay a price for political misadventure, but he is unlikely to be the last.

The Youngspiration-HKI and CP-PPI-HKRO split also puts diverging brands of localism on display. While the former pushes for Hong Kong national self-determination and, ultimately, independence, the latter supports Horace Chin Wan-kan’s (陳云根) (aka Chin Wan (陳雲)) city-state theory and is advocating the extension of the Basic Law beyond 2047. Since both Ray Wong Toi-yeung (黃台仰) and Edward Leung, the icons of HKI, are currently charged with several counts of rioting in last February’s Mong Kok unrest and could face years of imprisonment, the ‘nationalist’ faction will be left desperate in search of a new leader. That leader could be Andy Chan Ho-tin (陳浩天), convenor of Hong Kong National Party.

During a press conference prior to his disqualification from the LegCo race, Chan Ho-tin claimed, “I’m already in a position where I will not lose regardless of the outcome.” That statement may just have been double confirmed.