Pan-democracy camp

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For the group in Macau, see Pro-democratic camp.
Pan-democracy camp
Founded 1986; 30 years ago (1986)
Ideology Direct democracy
Liberalism (Hong Kong)
Radical democracy
Social democracy
Social liberalism
Political position Centre to Centre-left
Legislative Council
27 / 70
District Councils
124 / 458
Politics and government
of Hong Kong
Foreign relations
Related topics

The pan-democracy camp or pro-democracy camp (Chinese: 泛民主派, 親民主派, 泛民 or 民主派) refers to a political alignment in Hong Kong that supports increased democracy, namely the universal suffrage of the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council as given by the Basic Law under the "One Country, Two Systems" framework. The pan-democrats generally embrace liberal values such as rule of law, human rights, civil liberties and social justice, yet their economic positions vary. They are often identified as the "opposition camp" due to its non-cooperative and sometimes confrontational stance toward the Hong Kong SAR and Chinese central governments. Opposite to the pan-democracy camp is the pro-Beijing camp, whose members are perceived to be supportive of the central government of China.

The pro-democracy activists emerged from the youth movements in the 1970s and began to take part in electoral politics as the colonial government introduced representative democracy in the mid 1980s. The pro-democrats joined hand in pushing for greater democracy both in the transition period and after handover of Hong Kong in 1997. They also supported greater democracy in Chinese and took the supporting role in the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989. The relationship between the pro-democrats and the Beijing government strained after the Beijing's bloody crackdown on the protest and the pro-democrats were labelled "treason". The pro-democrats formed the United Democrats of Hong Kong (UDHK) which later transformed into the Democratic Party. Since 2004, the term "pan-democracy camp" is more in use as more different parties and politicians from different political spectrum emerged.


The main goal of the pan-democracy camp is to achieve universal suffrage of the Chief Executive (CE) and the Legislative Council (LegCo) as guaranteed in Article 45 and Article 68 of the Basic Law respectively. Since the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) 31 August 2014 decision that determined that Chief Executive candidate would be selected by a highly restrictive nominating committee which was seen as the betrayal of the democratic value, some democrats have raised the question of the right of self-determination. Yet, the mainstream pan-democrats remained their support of an autonomous Hong Kong under the "One Country, Two Systems" framework as promised by the Basic Law.[1]

The pan-democrats generally embrace liberal values such as rule of law, human rights, civil liberties and social justice, yet their economic positions vary. Some pro-democrats position themselves in a more pro-labour position, such as the League of Social Democrats (LSD), the Labour Party and the Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre (NWSC), however most pan-democrats believe in a more egalitarian society. The pan-democracy camp generally support the Chinese democracy movement, in which it can trace back to their support of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The pan-democrats have been calling for the end of one party rule of the Communist Party of China therefore are seen as threat to the Beijing authorities.

The pan-democrats also divide themselves with different approaches of achieving democracy: the moderate democrats represented by the Democratic Party and the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL) believe in dialogue with Beijing and Hong Kong governments over struggle, while radical democrats such as the League of Social Democrats and the People Power believe in street actions and mass movements. There have been serve conflicts and distrust between the two factions and a great split after the constitutional reform voting in 2010, where the Democratic Party negotiated with the Beijing representatives and supported the modified reform proposal and was seen as a betrayal by the radical democrats.[2]


Early development[edit]

Members of the camp include social workers and social activists emerged from the 1970s youth movements which fought for the social inequality and livelihood issues. They concerned about the question of Hong Kong sovereignty in the early 1980s, of which many of them supported a democratic autonomous Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty. In the mid 1980s when the colonial government introduced representative democracy, they took part in Hong Kong's District Board, Urban Council and Regional Council elections, as well as professionals, mainly lawyers, who entered the Legislative Council when functional constituencies were introduced in 1985. In 1986, a number of political groups, activists and politicians joined hand under the banner of the Joint Committee on the Promotion of Democratic Government demanding for 1988 direct election and universal suffrage in the new government after 1997. Among them, the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, Hong Kong Affairs Society and Meeting Point were the three major pro-democratic groups and formed a strategic alliance in the 1988 district board elections.

Tiananmen protests and pre-handover period[edit]

The consolidation of its public support has its roots in opposition to the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown which aroused widespread horror, sympathy and support of the protesters by Hong Kong citizens.[3] The crackdown on Chinese media and the subsequent suppression of student dissent was a mobilising factor; and the first direct election to the Legislative Council in 1991 brought the amalgamation of some of these groups into the United Democrats of Hong Kong, which including, Szeto Wah and Martin Lee the two major icons in the protests of 1989.

The "pro-democracy camp" term has been in common use since the 1991 election of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, when the electoral alliance of United Democrats of Hong Kong and Meeting Point, together with other smaller political parties, groups and independents, won a historical landslide victory in the election, took 17 out of the 18 geographical constituency seats and controlled nearly half of the seat of the council. Some of the members of the camp, especially the Democratic Party, were often considered strategic allies of the government of Chris Patten, then governor.

The Democrats supported Chris Patten's 1994 Hong Kong electoral reform bill for the 1995 Legislative Council election. However, Emily Lau's full-scale direct election amendment was not passed as a result of Meeting Point's abstaining from voting for Emily Lau. The Democratic Party, formed by a merger of the United Democrats and Meeting Point in 1994, won another landslide victory in the 1995 election. Together with other democratic parties and individuals (including Emily Lau, Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Yiu-chung who formed The Frontier in 1996 and Christine Loh who formed the Citizens Party in 1997), the pro-democrats gained a majority in the council for the last two years before 1997.

The PRC government argued that the electoral reform introduced by Patten had violated the Joint Declaration and thus they no longer felt obliged to honour it. A parallel Legislative Council, the Provisional Legislative Council, was formed in 1996 under the control of the Pro-Beijing camp, this became the Legislative Council upon the founding of the new SAR government in 1997.

Handover to China and 1 July 2003 protest[edit]

All of its members, except the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, declined to join the extralegal Provisional Legislative Council installed by the government of the People's Republic of China, and were ousted from the territory's legislature for a year until the 1998 election. Starting from the 1998 election, since the plurality electoral system was changed to proportional representation, compounded with the restoration of corporate votes in the functional constituencies, and replacement of broad-based functional constituencies with traditional ones, the number of seats of the camp dipped, albeit having similar share of vote. Within the camp, share of smaller parties and independents increased relatively, with the share of the Democratic Party falling from around two-thirds in 1995 to less than a half by 2004.

In recent years, use of "pan-democrats" is gaining in popularity, as it is typically meant to be non-denominational and all-inclusive. Members of the camp tend to use the latter term to identify themselves the "Pan-democracy camp" term is often used in negative tones by its detractors. "Pan-democrat" as a title has grown in usage especially during the passage of the national security and anti-subversion legislation, so-called Article 23. The pan-democracy camp was the strong opposition to the Article 23 and they successfully called for over 500 000 people to protest on 1 June 2003 against the legislation. The pro-democrats received victories in the subsequent 2003 district councils and 2004 LegCo elections. The Article 23 Concern Group formed by the pro-democracy lawyers transformed into Article 45 Concern Group and its member Audrey Eu, Alan Leong and Ronny Tong were elected in the 2004 LegCo election.

In 2006, the group formed the middle class and professional oriented Civic Party. On the other hand, the left-wing radical group League of Social Democrats was formed in the same year by Trotskyist legislator Leung Kwok-hung and radical radio host Wong Yuk-man.

In the 2007 Chief Executive election, Civic Party's Alan Leong successfully gained enough nominations to challenge the incumbent CE Donald Tsang, but he was not elected as expected due to the control of the Election Committee by the pro-Beijing camp.

After the 2008 LegCo election, The Frontier merged into the Democratic Party and the convenor Emily Lau was elected vice chair of the party.

2012 reform package and split[edit]

Donald Tsang, the Chief Executive, promised to resolve the question of universal suffrage in his office during the election. He carried out the 2012 constitutional package in 2009 which was criticised by the pro-democracy as lack of genuine progress. The League of Social Democrats called for a de facto referendum, by way of the 2010 by-elections in five geographical constituencies. Civic Party, the second largest pro-democratic party joined, however the Democratic Party, the largest party, was reluctant to participate. The Democratic Party and other moderate democrats and pro-democracy scholars launched the Alliance for Universal Suffrage and started to engage with the mainland officials. The Democratic Party brought out a revised proposal of the package to Beijing and the revised proposal was passed in the Legislative Council in the support of the government and Pro-Beijing camp.

However, it triggered a major split within the camp and also in the Democratic Party. The Young Turks including the LegCo member Andrew Cheng quit the party and formed the Neo Democrats. The Democratic Party was accused by the LSD and the radicals of betraying democracy and its supporters. On the matter of whether to coordinate with the moderate democrats in the 2011 district council elections, the League of Social Democrats was suffered in the factional fighting and the two of the three LSD legislators left the party in disarray and formed the People Power.[4] The People Power's campaign targeted pan-democracy parties in the 2011 DC elections that had supported the reform package filled candidates to run against them but only won one seat of 62 contested.

Nevertheless, the People Power managed to win three seats in the 2012 LegCo election and the radical democrats of the (People Power and the League of Social Democrats) topped 264,000 votes, compared to the Civic Party's 255,000 and Democratic Party's 247,000 respectively.[5] Despite the pan-democrats securing three of the five newly created, District Council (second) constituency seats the ratio of the vote share between the pan-democrats and the pro-Beijing camp narrowed significantly from the traditional 60% and 40%, to 55% and 45%.

The chairman of the Democratic Party Albert Ho represented the pan-democracy camp to run in the 2012 Chief Executive election. On election day the pan-democrats declined to vote for neither Henry Tang nor Leung Chun-ying and called for a blank vote from the electors.

In March 2013, all 27 democratic legislators formed the Alliance for True Democracy, replacing the Alliance for Universal Suffrage, to show solidarity of the camp to fight for genuine democracy. But Raymond Wong soon left People Power, meant he was not a member of ATD.

Political parties[edit]

This list includes the political parties and groups currently represented in the Legislative Council:

Civil groups[edit]

Criticism of the camp[edit]

Since the camp's idea of western-style liberal democracy would not be accepted easily by the Chinese government run by Communist Party. In some cases, pan-democracy activists have been accused of high treason and as "traitors to Han Chinese".[6]

Electoral performance[edit]

Chief Executive elections[edit]

Election Candidate # of votes  % of vote Total vote
2007 Alan Leong Kah-kit 123 15.38
123 / 796
2012 Albert Ho Chun-yan 76 6.37
76 / 1,193

Legislative Council elections[edit]

Election Number of
popular votes
 % of
popular votes
Total seats +/−
1991 888,729Steady[7] 64.91Steady 16 4
20 / 60
1995 581,181Steady 63.73Decrease 17 10 4
31 / 60
1998 982,249Increase 66.36Increase 15 5 0
20 / 60
2000 799,249Decrease 60.56Decrease 16 5 0
21 / 60
2004 1,096,272Increase 61.93Increase 18 7
26 / 60
2008 901,707Decrease 59.50Decrease 19 4
23 / 60
2012 1,036,998Increase 57.26Decrease 18 9
27 / 70

Municipal elections[edit]

Election Number of
popular votes
 % of
popular votes
elected seats
1989 68,831Steady 32.38Steady 5 5
10 / 27
1991 200,877Increase 51.28Increase 6 7
13 / 27
1995 255,490Increase 45.82Decrease 17 14
31 / 59

District Council elections[edit]

Election Number of
popular votes
 % of
popular votes
elected seats
1988 139,982Steady 22.16Steady
61 / 264
1991 170,757Increase 32.11Increase
83 / 272
1994 249,685Increase 36.38Increase
124 / 346
1999 271,251Increase 33.45Decrease
122 / 390
2003 469,640Increase 44.67Increase
193 / 400
2007 445,781Decrease 39.15Decrease
127 / 405
2011 464,512Increase 39.34Increase
103 / 412
2015 581,058Increase 40.20Increase
126 / 431

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Buckley, Chris; Forsythe, Michael (31 August 2014). "China Restricts Voting Reforms for Hong Kong". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "A more united Democratic Party predicted as Young Turks leave". South China Morning Post. Hong Kong. 20 December 2010. 
  3. ^ Wing-kai Chiu, Stephen. Lui, Tai-Lok. The Dynamics of Social Movement in Hong Kong. [2000] (2000). Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 962-209-497-X.
  4. ^ Pepper, Suzanne (15 November 2010). "Poltiking Hong Kong Style". Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  5. ^ Luk, Eddie (17 September 2012). "Change on way for Democrats, says Sin". The Standard. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  6. ^ Jensen, Lionel M. Weston, Timothy B. [2006] (2006). China's Transformations: The Stories Beyond the Headlines. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-7425-3863-X.
  7. ^ Note: Each voter was given two votes in the 1991 Election.