Democratic Party (Hong Kong)
|Founded||2 October 1994|
|Merger of||The Frontier|
|Preceded by||United Democrats
|Headquarters||4/F, Commercial Bldg.
776-778 Nathan Road
Kowloon, Hong Kong
|National affiliation||Pan-democracy Camp|
|International affiliation||Alliance of Democrats|
|Politics of Hong Kong
The Democratic Party (Chinese: 民主黨 ) is a centrist political party in Hong Kong, which is one of the major parties of pan-democracy camp. It was established on 2 October 1994. The party is currently the second largest party in the Legislative Council, headed by Chairwoman Emily Lau since December 2012. Now had around 759 members, six legislators and 46 district councillors.
From the outset, the party supported the restoration of Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong. However, since the Handover it has consistently stressed the "two systems" part of the "one country, two systems" principle. The party's stance on Hong Kong's future development differs from that of pro-Beijing parties. It believes Hong Kong must develop more democratic institutions and preserve freedoms and human rights in order to achieve prosperity.
The party proposed policies on various areas of governance through designated spokespersons, including:
- Amendment of the Basic Law to achieve more democracy and safeguard freedoms, while achieving closer economic cooperation with Mainland China.
- Protection of human rights.
- Maintain Hong Kong's status as an international finance and trade centre and improve its economic infrastructure (concrete details not given), as well as a more flexible way to control public expenditure.
- Better monitoring of public services and utilities (i.e. more accountability), and strengthened measures to protect the environment.
- More resources for education, with less vague policies.
- Reasonable (i.e. larger) share of economic achievements by the employee for the employee, and increased involvement by the Government to protect labour laws in accordance with social needs.
- Adopt measures to regulate property prices from fluctuation, and provide adequate public housing
- Increase spending on social welfare.
- Universal suffrage by 2012 (before December 2005, 2007/8).
Overall, the Democratic Party advocates economic policies  pretty close to "liberalism" in the sense of John Rawls (rather than, say, of Robert Nozick or Friedrich Hayek, as commonly accepted outside North America), in sharp contrast with the traditional radical free-market orientation of Hong Kong. However, this point is rarely mentioned in the speeches held by party members during their trips abroad to seek political support. The party's position on social or cultural issues is not well-defined but verges on the conservative, partly due to sizeable support from Catholic constituents. In a way that may seem contradictory to traditional liberal ideology, the party generally opposes the legalization of commercial sex or gambling operations.
The Democratic Party was formed with the merger of the two largest pro-democracy political groups at the time, the United Democrats of Hong Kong which was formed in April 1990, and the Meeting Point which was formed in 1983. It was the first group to formally consider itself a political party in Hong Kong.
Before the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong from the UK to the People's Republic of China in July 1997, the DP was the largest party - following the earlier success of the pro-democracy camp in the 1991 Hong Kong legislative election, the party won 19 seats in the 1995 Legislative Council election.
The popularity of the party principally rose from its position towards the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, for which it had solemnly condemned the Chinese Government. In the run-up to 1997, with widespread sentiment of uncertainty then towards the future of Hong Kong under Chinese rule, the party supported the controversial package of political reform bought about by the last British colonial Hong Kong Governor, Chris Patten.
The party's stance conflicted with the PRC government's, which, for a while, earned the party more popularity and recognition both locally and overseas. The founder and then party chairman, Mr. Martin Lee Chu-ming, became well-known internationally in the run-up to reunification as a human rights and democracy fighter, and won a number of international human rights awards.
The party refused to join the Provisional Legislative Council established in December 1996 in protest of its formation. As the body became the official legislature of Hong Kong SAR after reunification, the party lost all its seats in the legislature, until the first LegCo election of the HKSAR on 24 May 1998.
Under the proportional representation system which the HKSAR Government considered the best representation of the spectrum of views of the community, the party secured 12 out of 60 seats in the first LegCo election in 1998, including 9 out of 20 seats from the geographical constituencies, in which the party received 43% of the vote.
During this period, the party's popularity declined. Some analysis attributed this to increased concerns on economic issues as opposed to political ones, and unpopular party positions, such as on the Right of Abode issue in 1999. In the second LegCo election two years later in 2000, the party's share of the vote in the geographical constituencies dropped to 35%, and the party secured 9 out of the 24 directly elected seats. Its total number of seats in LegCo remained at 12.
Meanwhile, the party was plagued by internal fragmentation, further affecting its image. Lau Chin Shek was expelled from the party in 2000. LegCo member Chan Wai-yip quit the party in December 2001 following the succession of former Chairman Martin Lee by Yeung Sum, leaving the party with 11 seats in LegCo. In April 2002, some members in the "Young Turks" camp within the party left and joined The Frontier.
This factionalism stemmed from the political and economic orientation of the party platform. On the political side, some "Young Turks" of the party considered the party leaders too eager to establish a "dialogue" with Beijing and the HKSAR Government, and insufficiently confrontational with the authorities. Some also considered the party too "middle-class" and distant from the grass-roots on labour issues - such as proposed legislation on a minimum wage, which the party did not support.
2002 and 2003 saw a rebound in popularity, largely due to the Article 23 issue and the low popularity of the HKSAR Government headed by Tung Chee Hwa. The party benefited from its opposition standpoint and achieved an impressive victory in the 2003 District Council elections, claiming 92 seats compared with 86 in the last election in 1999.
In 2004, the popularity of other groups and individuals in the pro-democratic camp (such as members of the Article 45 Concern Group and Albert Cheng), together with the emergence of scandals concerning two of the party's candidates in the LegCo election this year, began to wane. As a result, the Democratic Party only won 9 seats (7 in geographical constituencies and 2 in functional constituencies) overall, becoming the third largest party in LegCo behind the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (12) and the Liberal Party (10). Last-minute party tactics aimed at securing votes in the Hong Kong Island geographical constituency ironically led to the defeat of another democratic camp candidate, Cyd Ho, causing further dissatisfaction among some supporters of the party and the democratic camp generally.
Since early 2005, 24 members had quit the party, including district councillor Fong Chan Bong (who was forced out by the party) and Lau Tak Cheung. Twelve district councillors also left the party. Another district councillor died in a car accident. The number of district councillors decreased by 13 to 79.
In March, 2006, the Mainstream faction alleged that some senior members were involved in spying activities of China. The "suspects" were all Young Turks members including vice-chairman Chan King Ming and Gary Fan. In December 2010, Chan and Fan quitted the party to form the Neo Democrats.
2008 to present
In November 2008, Democratic Party and the Frontier merged. At the time, the Democratic Party had 636 members, eight legislators and 57 district council members, while the Frontier had one legislator, Emily Lau, three district councillors and around 110 members. The following month, Albert Ho was reelected chairman, and Lau, formerly the driving force of the Frontier, became a vice-chairman of the new combined party.
In 2010, the party achieved a historic breakthrough in the run-up to the Legco vote on the government's 2012 constitutional reform package when it reached an agreement with Beijing to allow five new functional constituency members of Legco to be elected by popular vote. The move divided opinion in the pan-democratic camp but ultimately allowed the bill to pass. After the agreement with Beijing, 30 members (comprising 4% of the membership) left the party as they accusing their leaders of betraying the people and slowing the pace towards universal suffrage. During the annual 1 July rally for democracy in 2010, many protesters chanted, 'Shame on you, Democratic Party, for selling out Hong Kong people'.
Although the party successfully gained two of the five seats of the territory-wide based new District Council (Second) constituency in the 2012 LegCo election, the total seats of the party dropped from 8 to only 6 seats, the worst results in the party's history. Chairman Albert Ho resigned after the election outcomes announced, vice-chairwoman Emily Lau took over as acting chairman. In the party leadership election in December, Emily Lau defeated Sin Chung-kai as the first chairwoman of the party.
Legislative Council elections
| % of
District Council elections
| % of
List of chairmen
- Martin Lee (1994 – 2002)
- Yeung Sum (2002 – 2004)
- Lee Wing Tat (2004 – 2006)
- Albert Ho (2006 – 2012)
- Emily Lau (2012 – present)
- Contributions to liberal theory
- Liberalism worldwide
- List of liberal parties
- Liberal democracy
- 1.^ Majority merged into the Democratic Party on 23 November 2008.
- Democrats lick wounds as 30 reform radicals quit, The Standard, Colleen Lee, 20 December 2010
- Party pact sees women as kings of a new frontier
- Emily Lau elected DP vice-chairman RTHK 14 December 2008
- "A more united Democratic Party predicted as Young Turks leave". South China Morning Post (Hong Kong). 20 December 2010.
- "Democratic Party under fire at rally". South China Morning Post (Hong Kong). 2 July 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Democratic Party (Hong Kong).|
- Democratic Party official site (English)