Democratic Party (Hong Kong)
|Founded||2 October 1994|
|Merger of||United Democrats
|Headquarters||4/F, Commercial Bldg.
776-778 Nathan Road
Kowloon, Hong Kong
|Youth wing||Young Democrats|
|National affiliation||Pan-democracy camp|
|International affiliation||Alliance of Democrats|
|Politics of Hong Kong
The Democratic Party (Chinese: 民主黨 ) is a centre-left pro-democracy political party in Hong Kong. It was founded on 2 October 1994 as the merger of the two pro-democracy parties the United Democrats of Hong Kong and the Meeting Point. Since its creation, it had been the pro-democracy flagship party in Hong Kong for a period of time. Headed by Chairwoman Emily Lau since December 2012, the party is currently the third largest party in the Legislative Council, having 6 legislators, 45 District Councillors and around 769 members, .
- 1 Party beliefs
- 2 History
- 2.1 Founding
- 2.2 1994/95 elections and Provisional Legislative Council (1994–1998)
- 2.3 Return to Legislative Council and early crises (1998–2002)
- 2.4 Rebound in popularity (2002–2004)
- 2.5 Demand for 2007/08 Universal suffrage (2004–2007)
- 2.6 Merge with the Frontier and 2010 breakthrough (2008–2011)
- 2.7 2012 Chief Executive and LegCo elections (2011–present)
- 3 Factions
- 4 Electoral performance
- 5 Leaders
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 External links
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.
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 founded with the merger of the two major pro-democracy political groups at the time, the United Democrats of Hong Kong (UDHK) and the Meeting Point (MP). The Meeting Point was formed in 1983 by a group of intellectuals and people from middle class in the background of the Sino-British negotiations on the sovereignty of Hong Kong after 1997. The group favoured the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China but called for a "free, democratic and autonomous Hong Kong government under Chinese sovereignty". Together with the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL) and the Hong Kong Affairs Society (HKAS), they were the three major pro-democracy organisations actively participated in the local and municipal elections in the 1980s.
In preparation for the first Legislative Council direct election in 1991, members of the three groups joined together and formed the United Democrats of Hong Kong in April 1990. Chaired by the then LegCo member Martin Lee Chu-ming, the United Democrats of Hong Kong formed an alliance with Anthony Cheung Bing-leung's Meeting Point. The alliance won a landslide victory in the direct election, receiving over 52% of the vote and winning 14 of the 16 geographical constituency seats in September. The popularity of the pro-democratic alliance was principally rose from its position towards the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, for which they had solemnly condemned the bloody suppression of the Government of the People's Republic of China.
The United Democrats of Hong Kong and the Meeting Point announced the formation of the Democratic Party on 18 April 1994. They formally merged into the Democratic Party on 2 October 1994, in preparation for the first fully elected LegCo election in 1995. Martin Lee became the first Chairman of the party and Anthony Cheung and Yeung Sum became the Vice-Chairmen, elected on the first general meeting on the establishment day. The ADPL continued to keep its own identity, arguing that it represented grassroots' interest whereas the Democratic Party was more focused on the "middle class".
1994/95 elections and Provisional Legislative Council (1994–1998)
The electorate base of the 1995 LegCo election was largely extended by the Governor Chris Patten's controversial electoral reform package supported by the pro-democrats. Facing the challenge from the newly formed business conservative Liberal Party and pro-Beijing loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), the Democratic Party was able to win handsome victories in the three-tier elections in 1994 and 1995. In the LegCo election in September 1995, the party secured 42% of the vote and 19 of the 60 total seats, emerging as the largest party in the Legislative Council, compared to Liberal Party's 10 seats and DAB's 6 seats. Together with the ADPL and other pro-democracy independents, the democratic coalition was able to garner one- or two-vote majorities on certain anti-government issues during the last term of the legislature.
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 party chairman Martin Lee 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.
After Patten's reform package was passed, Beijing decided that the legislature elected in 1995 could not ride the "through train" beyond the handover of Hong Kong, as the first legislature of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). Instead, Beijing set up a highly-controlled Provisional Legislative Council (PLC) in December 1996. The Democratic Party refused to join the Selection Committee as it opposed to Beijing's decision "to scrap Hong Kong's elected legislature and replace it with a hand-picked version." The party thus lost all 19 seats until the PLC was replaced by the first Legislative Council of the Hong Kong SAR in 1998.
At the midnight on 30 June just after the handover ceremony, the Democratic Party LegCo members protested against the abrupt termination of their tenure and call for the establishment of democratic government at the balcony of the Legislative Council Building, and vow to return to the legislature by means of election in 1998.
Return to Legislative Council and early crises (1998–2002)
Decided by the Provisional Legislative Council, the first-past-the-post voting system was replaced by the proportional representation system in the first LegCo election in 1998. The proportional representation gave an advantage to the weaker pro-Beijing DAB as it did not require a majority to win a seat. Thus in 1995 the Democratic Party won 12 seats in the geographical constituencies with 42.3% of the vote, but it got only 9 seat with 40.2% of the vote in 1998.
After the handover, the Right of Abode litigation was initiated immediately and reached its climax in the Court of Final Appeal's (CFA) decisions favouring the right of abode seekers in Ng Ka Ling and Chan Kam Nga lawsuits in January 1999. The Democratic Party supported the right of abode seekers and opposed strongly to the government's decision to refer the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to interpret the Basic Law. Party Chairman Martin Lee condemned this move as "a dagger striking at the heart of the rule of law" and in symbolic protest walked out of the Legislative Council with 18 other members, all dressed in black. However, the party appeared to suffer from popular discontent with the party's position. The party was also crticised for failing to broaden its post-1997 agenda and develop a well-defined social base.
The party also appeared to suffer from the internal dissension. In December 1998, the "Young Turks" led by Andrew To Kwan-hang staged a successful coup d'etat in the party leadership election, which promptly brought the party into a phase of factional struggle. The Young Turks formed their own list of about ten candidates to run for the Central Committee and nominated Lau Chin-shek to run for Vice-Chairman against the former Meeting Point Chairman Anthony Cheung. Some hoped to make Lau as their factional leader, to lead the party from the Meeting Point faction's pro-middle class, pro-laissez-faire and pro-Beijing positions to a more pro-grassroots position. Although Lau was elected Vice-Chairman, he resigned after the election. Lau was subsequently forced to leave the party in June 2000 after a one-year membership freeze, due to Lau's Democratic Party/Frontier dual membership.
In a general meeting in September 1999, the Young Turks also proposed to put the minimum wage legislation on the 2000 LegCo election platform of the party. The Mainstreamers which included the "triumvirate", Yeung Sum, Cheung Man-kwong and Lee Wing-tat, saw the minimum wage debate was a challenge to the party authority and decide to fight back by joining hands with the Meeting Point faction to defeat the Young Turks. Andrew To wrote a newspaper article accusing the Mainstreamers of suppressing intra-party dissent, "just like the butchers in the Tiananmen massacre." To's comment led to a backlash of opinion within the party and led to the defeat of the minimum wage motion. The debate, largely took place in the mass media, publicised the factional rivalries and created a bad image within the party.
The popular discontent and internal fragmentation appeared to have marked a turning point in the prospects of the Democratic Party and the DAB. In the 1999 District Council elections, the DAB more than doubled its representation, while Democratic Party performed less well than anticipated, winning 86 seats. In the second LegCo election in the following year, Tsang Kin-shing and Steve Chan left the party and ran as independents after failing to be nominated on the candidates list by the Central Committee. The election results showed the party's share 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.
In December 2002, Yeung Sum succeeded Martin Lee as Party Chairman in the leadership change, legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip, belonging to the pro-grassroots relatively "radical" faction, left the party. By the end of 2002, more than 50 members of the party had defected to the Frontier, mostly Young Turks.
Rebound in popularity (2002–2004)
In 2002 and 2003 the party saw a rebound in popularity, largely due to the low popularity of the Tung Chee-hwa's administration, and more significantly the controversy over the Basic Law Article 23 legislation. The pro-democrats worried that the anti-subversion law would threaten the rights and freedom of the Hong Kong people and damaged the rule of law and "One Country, Two Systems." The Article 23 legislation turned into a territory-wide debate and led to a re-awakening of civil society, mobilising different sectors to join the opposition movement. The Democratic Party used many of their 94 district offices for community-level moblisation. In the weeks before the July 1 march, the Democratic Party managed to collect phone numbers of about 40,000 supporters. The party's volunteers and staff called them one by one to call on them to join the demonstration. The demonstration resulted in a record-breaking number of people, more than 500,000 Hong Kong joined the march. The SAR government had to back down and shelve the bill indefinitely.
In the following 2003 District Council elections in November, the pro-democracy camp turned the popular support into the demand of democratisation, universal suffrage of the Chief Executive and Legislative Council in 2007 and 2008, their primary goals for years. The Democratic Party received a great victory by claiming 95 seats out of the 120 candidates in the election.
The civil movement in 2003 also broadened the spectrum of the pro-democracy camp. A number of pro-democracy groups such as Article 45 Concern Group and individuals such as Leung Kwok-hung and Albert Cheng Jing-han were elected in the 2004 LegCo election. Although the pan-democracy camp took 25 of 60 seats, the Democratic Party won only 9 seats, falling from the largest party in the Legislative Council to the third, behind DAB's 13 (including the FTU members) and pro-business Liberal Party's 10. Worried by pre-election surveys indicating that Martin Lee might be in danger, the Democratic Party sent out a last minute S.O.S. call to "save Martin Lee" who was listed second on the Democratic Party's list behind Chairman Yeung Sum in the Hong Kong Island constituency. As a result, Yeung's and Lee's list absorbed too many votes at the expense of pro-democracy ally Cyd Ho Sau-lan losing by just 815 votes to DAB's Choy So-yuk. It caused some dissatisfaction among some supporters of the party and the camp generally. Yeung Sum announced he would not seek for re-election as chairman after the election as a result and subsequently replaced by Lee Wing-tat in the party leadership election in December.
Demand for 2007/08 Universal suffrage (2004–2007)
Although lack of breakthrough in the legislative elections, the pan-democracy maintains its basic position of seeking universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008 for Chief Executive and Legislative Council respectively, even though the NPCSC's interpretation of the Basic Law in April 2004 rejected the demand. After Tung Chee-hwa's resigned as Chief Executive in March 2005, Party Chairman Lee Wing-tat attempted to run for the post against Donald Tsang but failed to get enough nominations in the Election Committee. Donald Tsang was elected uncontestedly in the Chief Executive election.
In October 2005, Donald Tsang's administration issued a blueprint for the electoral reform. The proposal aimed to double to size of Election Committee to 1,600 and add 10 seats to the Legislative Council, half of which would be directly elected and the rest returned by District Councillors. The pro-democracy parties criticised the proposal as conservative as it did not move towards to universal suffrage. In December, the camp held a mass rally against the government's reform package and demanded a timetable and road-map to democracy be attached to the proposal. The reform package was at last vetoed by the pan-democracy camp. In December 2006, 114 of the 137 pro-democracy candidates filled by the Democratic Party and the newly established Civic Party won the Election Committee subsector elections which secured the threshold of 100 nominations to enter the next Chief Executive election.
Since early 2005, 24 members had quit the party, including district councillor Stephen Fong Chun-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 Mainstreamer faction alleged that some senior members were involved in spying activities of China. The "suspects" were all Young Turks Reformist members including vice-chairman Chan King-ming and Gary Fan Kwok-wai. The Young Turk members were all ousted in the following leadership election in December, with Mainstreamer Albert Ho Chun-yan defeating Chan King-ming as the new party chairman.
The pan-democrats suffered a humiliating defeat in the District Council elections in November 2007. The Democratic Party took the heaviest loss of 36 seats as compared with 2003. 23 of the party's incumbent Councillors were ousted, with just over half of its candidates elected. The Democratic Party was by far outstripped by the Beijing loyalist DAB which won total of 115 seats, recapturing the loss in 2003 and also much expanding.
On 29 December 2007, the NPCSC unveiled a timetable for the universal suffrage of the Chief Executive in 2017 and for the entire Legislative Council by 2020 with a host of conditions. The NPCSC decision helped reducing the political pressure on Tsang while removing pan-democracy camp's key rallying cry in the following LegCo election, although the pro-democratic parties were still calling for the universal suffrage of the Chief Executive and Legislative Council in 2012.
Merge with the Frontier and 2010 breakthrough (2008–2011)
In the 2008 LegCo election, the Democratic Party's share of vote further dropped to 20.6%, winning only 8 seats. The emerging pro-democratic parties professionals-formed Civic Party and left-wing League of Social Democrats (LSD) took the share of 13.7% and 10.1% and won 5 and 3 seats respectively. Facing the emerging new parties, the two old political parties the Democratic Party and the Frontier merged. At the time, the Democratic Party had 636 members, 8 legislators and 57 District Council members, while the Frontier had one legislator, Emily Lau Wai-hing, three District Councillors and around 110 members. In the following month, Albert Ho was re-elected Chairman, and Emily Lau became a Vice-Chairman of the new combined party in the party leadership election.
In the following electoral reform for the 2012 Chief Executive and LegCo elections in 2009 and 2010, Donald Tsang proposed a reform package which had not much difference from the 2005 proposal. The pan-democracy camp were saying they were going to veto it again. The Civic Party and League of Social Democrats launched a de facto referendum by resigning and triggering territory-wide by-elections to let the voters voice out their demand on democracy. The Democratic Party refused to participate as it argued it was not an effective way. Szeto Wah said the Democratic Party would not join in the resignations itself, but would support pan-democrats who stood for re-election. In December 2009, the Democratic Party members voted 229 voted against, 54 in favour and one abstention not to join the resignation plan after a four-hour debate at a general meeting.
Instead in May 2010, the party leaders met with the officials of the Central Government's Liaison Office in Hong Kong to negotiate on the reform package, which was the first meeting between Democratic Party leaders and senior officials from the central government since the Tiananmen massacre of 1989. The central government subsequently accepted the Democratic Party's revised proposal in the run-up to the LegCo vote, which allowed the five new functional constituency members of LegCo to be elected by popular vote. The Democratic Party's move significantly divided the opinion within the pan-democracy camp but the bill was ultimately passed in June 2010 with the support of the Democratic Party. After the agreement with Beijing, 30 Young Turk Reformists (comprising 4% of the membership) left the party before the December Party leadership election, accusing their leaders of betraying the people and slowing the pace towards universal suffrage. LegCo member Andrew Cheng Kar-foo had also quit the party earlier at the LegCo voting in June.
The party's refusal of participating the by-election and the agreement with Beijing heavily damaged the solidarity of the pan-democracy camp. The "radical" League of Social Democrats accused the Democratic Party for "selling out" Hong Kong people. During the annual July 1 march in 2010, the Democratic Party leaders were verbally attacked by other democratic protestors, chanting "Shame on you, Democratic Party, for selling out Hong Kong people." In the following District Council elections in November 2011, the newly formed People Power headed by Rayamond Wong Yuk-man, who quit as the Chairman of the League of Social Democrats early the year, launched an anti-Democratic Party campaign and filled in candidates run against the Democratic Party members. The Democratic Party was able to retain 47 seats with an increase of the vote. The People Power failed to get any seat against the Democratic Party but one seat where was no other democratic candidates.
2012 Chief Executive and LegCo elections (2011–present)
In the Election Committee Subsector elections in December 2011, pan-democracy camp was able to get more than 150 seats to secure the threshold of nominating a candidate in the 2012 Chief Executive election. Democratic Party Chairman Albert Ho won over Frederick Fung Kin-kee of ADPL in the pan-democracy primary election and stood for the camp in the election. The election was dominated by the two candidates from the pro-Beijing camp, Henry Tang and Leung Chun-ying and marked by scandals, dirty tactics and smears from both sides. Albert Ho fell behind in the opinion poll throughout the campaign partly due to the impossibility of him being elected by the Beijing-controlled Election Committee. The pan-democracy camp called for casting blank votes on the election day. During the election 1,132 votes were cast, CY Leung received 689; Henry Tang received 285, and Albert Ho received 76.
In the LegCo election in the following September, the party successfully gained two of the five seats of the territory-wide based new District Council (Second) constituency which were created by its own proposal. However, the total seats of the party dropped from 8 to only 6 seats, the worst results in the party's history. The party could only gained 13.7% of the popular vote, even less than Civic Party's 14.1%. Chairman Albert Ho resigned after the election outcomes announced, vice-chairwoman Emily Lau took over as acting chairman. Lau defeated Sin Chung-kai as the first chairwoman of the party in the December party leadership election.
- Mainstreamers – led by the "triumvirate", Yeung Sum, Cheung Man-kwong and Lee Wing-tat and consisting of members including Albert Ho, Sin Chung-kai and Tik Chi-yuen. In 1999, Lee asserted that the Democratic Party should strive to serve as representative of middle class interests, and take balance between parliamentary politics and street action. Yeung and Lee were the party chairmen from 2002 to 2004 and 2004 to 2006 respectively.
- Meeting Point – consisting of former members of the Meeting Point, including Lo Chi-kin, Andrew Fung Wai-kwong and led by the former Meeting Point Chairman Anthony Cheung Bing-leung. The Meeting Point faction prefers a more pro-middle class, pro-market and moderate agenda. It also stresses dialogue with Beijing and Hong Kong governments over struggle, and parliamentary politics over street action. Anthony Cheung quit the party in 2004 and was appointed to the Secretary for Transport and Housing by Leung Chun-ying in 2012; Andrew Fung quit the party in 2012 in an unpleasant manner and was appointed government's information coordinator in 2013.
- Young Turks – consisting of the relatively radical, left-wing and pro-grassroots activists and local-level party members including Steve Chan Kwok-leung, Tsang Kin-shing, Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, Albert Chan Wai-yip and Eric Wong Chung-ki. Led by Andrew To Kwan-hang, the Young Turks believed that the party should take struggle over dialogue and mass movements over parliamentary politics as the party's strategy. They also suggested adopting more grassroots platform such as minimum wage. The Young Turks were more like a "factional clique" than a organised faction as they were a group of young politicians with poor discipline and only had some vague common ideas, without a clear leader, coherent ideologies or positions. The Young Turks attempted to challenged the party leadership by nominating Lau Chin-shek to run for Vice-Chairman against Anthony Cheung in the 1998 party leadership election. Lau was expelled from the party in 2000 and Andrew To, Tsang Kin-shing and Albert Chan left the party and subsequently formed the left-wing League of Social Democrats in 2006. As many original Young Turks left, a new Reformist group emerged as the main opposition faction against the Mainstreamers party leadership, which included Chan King-ming who contested for chairman in the 2004 election and 2006 election and Legislative Council member Andrew Cheng. New Territories East was the Reformists' stronghold; Chan King-ming was the Chairman of the New Territories branch and Andrew Cheng was the legislator from the same constituency. Andrew Cheng and other Young Turks quit after the party supported the controversial electoral reform package. Many of them became the backbone of the Neo Democrats formed in 2010.
Chief Executive elections
|Election||Candidate||# of votes||% of vote|
Legislative Council elections
| % of
| % of
District Council elections
| % of
- Martin Lee, 1994–2002
- Yeung Sum, 2002–2004
- Lee Wing-tat, 2004–2006
- Albert Ho, 2006–2012
- Emily Lau, acting 2012
- Emily Lau, 2012–present
- Anthony Cheung, 1994–1998
- Yeung Sum, 1994–2000
- Lau Chin-shek, 1998
- Law Chi-kwong, 1998–2002
- Lee Wing-tat, 2000–2004
- Albert Ho, 2002–2006
- Chan King-ming, 2004–2006
- Sin Chung-kai, 2006–2012
- Tik Chi-yuen, 2006–2008
- Emily Lau, 2008–2012
- Lo Kin-hei, 2012–present
- Richard Tsoi, 2012–present
- Contributions to liberal theory
- Democratic development in Hong Kong
- Human rights in Hong Kong
- Liberalism worldwide
- Liberal democracy
- List of liberal parties
- 1.^ Majority merged into the Democratic Party on 23 November 2008.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Democratic Party (Hong Kong).|
- Democratic Party official site (English)