The Election Committee (EC) Information Technology subsector election is being fiercely challenged by pro-Beijing camp. FC LegCo member Charles Mok is still confident the pan-democracy camp can keep most of the EC seats in the subsector.
The looming prospect of a contested CE election means every vote counts – and will be fiercely contested. The pan-dems can only reasonably make gains in some subsectors from the Second Sector (professionals) and some in the Third (social welfare, mostly).
Beijing is bringing the fight to the IT subsector – aggressively. While Charles Mok was a strong and relentless proponent of the government’s proposed Information and Technology Bureau, his pan-dem counterparts made for uneasy bedfellows. Their relentless filibustering, under the guise of objecting to the government’s ability to use the money wisely, made it easy for the pro-establishment forces to castigate Mr Mok, to IT voters, for caucusing with the pro-dems.
However, Charles Mok, the incumbent pan-dem Legislative Councilor (Information Technology Functional Constituency), argues the pan-dems will not lose the crucial votes in the IT subsector.
Since 1997, the LegCo functional constituency (FC) seat and the election committee (EC) have normally been held by the pan-dems, a rarity among FC seats and EC delegations.
However, in 2008, pro-Beijing Samson Tam defeated Mr Mok by 35 votes in LegCo election. Observers had to recognise the rising influence of Internet Professional Association (iProA), a pro-Beijing IT trade association which Mr Tam belongs to. In 2011, Apple Daily reported on suspected vote rigging behaviour by iProA so as to expand the supporter base of Pro-Beijing camp and take the battle to Mr Mok and the pan-dem forces in the IT subsector. In recent weeks, iProA reportedly offered super-discounted membership fees to attract newcomers, prompting criticism about vote rigging again. [Ed note: Sounds like normal elections in other jurisdictions; see here].
Referring to the guidance notes of Registration and Electoral Office, eligible IT subsector voters from iProA means ‘Members who are confirmed by the Association to have had experience in the information technology field, as specified in the constitution of the Association, during the relevant period; and entitled to vote at general meetings of the Association’. Mr Mok accuses the confirmation process of iProA membership of being a black box process, lacking in rigour and criteria for defining and verifying the IT bonafides of new members.
Mr Mok admits that vote rigging among the IT sub-sector’s 80,000 workers (data from Vocational Training Council in 2015) exists, but the situation may not be as serious as expected.
IT workers are numerous and generally have liberal leanings. “So even though iProA and other pro-Beijing IT associations expand their membership pools by all means, it would be hard, compared to other EC subsectors with fewer eligible voters, to direct or control how the IT subsector voters are going to vote. “ he said.
Replying the accusation of Mr. Mok, iProA emphasises the membership confirmation process has been reviewed by the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) and Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) many times with satisfaction. iProA also says it is up to iProA members who have voting rights in General Meetings to register for the IT constituency in LegCo election and IT subsector in EC election without any interference.
Charles Mok: Aiming at 25 seats
In the IT subsector, most eligible voters are individual voters (fellows or members from designated IT-related organisations or associations). Only a few (APT Satellite Company Limited and Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Limited) are corporate voters.
30 seats are allocated in IT subsector. All eligible IT subsector voters can be nominated to be EC election candidates. In 2011, 61 candidates competed for the seats.
All candidates are free to form electoral coalition lists to run their campaign. Mr Mok-led pan-dem 20-member list IT Voice 2012 in 2011 successfully met their target by winning 20 seats. The remaining 10 seats were take by 8 candidates from the Pro-Beijing ICT Energy 24-member list (including DAB member Elizabeth Quat), and 2 independents Ricky Wong, Chairman of Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV), and Winnie Tang, Managing Director of Esri Hong Kong.
“My concern is that not too many IT workers are eager to register as eligible members of specific IT associations or organisations, and even fewer of them are willing to run in the EC election campaign or even vote in the election,” Mr Mok reveals.
“If we put up our best effort, we have a chance to take more seats in the (IT sector) EC election, even 25 out of 30.” Mr Mok believes the pan-dem camp will increase their take in 2016.
“The medical subsector also lacks enough pan-dem EC election candidates, and that is why the pro-Beijing camp can easily dominate the subsector. The Professional Commons is to coordinate the pan-dem supporters among the Second Sector to strengthen the power of pan-dem camp,” he explains. Mr Mok is the Vice Chair of the Professional Commons.
Anyone but CY – a growing pan-dem consensus
A meeting between Alan Leong and James Tien in mid-March suggests that the pan-dem and business parties may coordinate to nominate a candidate to block CY Leung from re-election. In the past, the pan-dems had run a protest candidate to show the unfairness and futility of the current system.
Now, priorities are different. Backing a no-hope protest candidate is taking a backseat to ousting the Chief Executive.
“Electing ‘Anyone but CY’ is more urgent [to a broad swathe of pan-dems], and it needs cooperation between the pan-dem and business-linked political parties,” argues Mr Mok.