- Electoral Politics in Post-1997 Hong Kong: Protest, Patronage, and the Media by Stan Hok-Wui Wong
Scholars of Hong Kong politics generally agree that there has been a rise of social movements since the handover in 1997. Most notably, the Occupy Central Movement in 2014 targeting at “genuine universal suffrage” has attracted wide participation. Yet the election politics in Hong Kong seems to be contradictory to the vibrant civil society activism. Hong Kong is witnessing an uninterrupted rising trend in the electoral support of pro-establishment parties. Stan Wong’s book, Electoral Politics in Post-1997 Hong Kong, aims to solve the puzzle that why there would be rising support for pro-establishment parties in elections, given citizens’ strong demand for democratization. In this study, Stan adopts a mixed-method approach, using methods including interview, content analysis, statistical analysis, formal modeling and GIS techniques.
Stan argues that media freedom, social protest and patronage politics jointly explain the increasing support for pro-establishment parties in elections. Stan identifies the opposition parties can gain two types of votes in competitive authoritarian regimes (pp. 10-11). The first is the protest vote that the citizens vote for the opposition to show their dissatisfaction with the incumbent. The second is the relationship vote in which the citizens vote for the opposition because of personal contacts. In the case of Hong Kong, as the opposition parties are relatively short in financial resources, they are not able to compete with the pro-establishment parties to build up personal ties and get the relationship vote. The opposition parties then tend to target at the protest vote by organizing social protests and getting exposure in the media. When organizing protest, radical views usually dominate the media’s coverage of the prodemocracy movement, moderate voters are then alienated (p. 12). The declining support from moderate voters leads to the decrease of electoral support for the opposition in general.
The monograph consists of seven chapters. The first three chapters offer the introduction, background information and the theory. In [End Page 171] Chapter 2, the author formalizes the election in competitive authoritarian regimes by providing an analytical model, which includes the interaction among four actors in elections: the incumbent, the opposition, the media and the voters. The key insight of the model is that in authoritarian regimes, the media freedom does not necessarily threaten the authoritarian rule, instead, the media freedom could promote political radicalism, which might end up undermining the overall support to the opposition (p. 21).
In Chapter 4, Stan details the changing electoral strategies of prodemocracy parties. Stan points out that the political development after the July 1 Protest in 2003 is featured by the emergence of new prodemocracy parties that emphasize on contentious politics while neglect constituency service. The new prodemocracy parties, like the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats, actively engage in controversial issues and social protests. In this way, these new prodemocracy parties are able to gain media exposure that originally belongs to modest prodemocracy parties (p. 79). There is further a rise of internal conflict within the opposition camp (p. 82). The radical parties are able to gain electoral support at the expense of their moderate allies. The rise of civil society activism further empowers the radicals but isolates the modest parties. A major consequence is that the prodemocracy camp loses support from some modest voters.
In Chapter 5 and Chapter 6, Stan discusses the grassroots strategy of pro-establishment parties and its impact on election. The pro-establishment parties cannot compete with the prodemocracy party in ideology, so they try to gain votes by offering constituency service. The pro-establishment parties put huge resources to get seats in the district council. Compared to the prodemocracy parties, the pro-establishment parties would offer much more training, financial support and organizational support to candidates for district council. The pro-establishment parties further benefit from gerrymandering (p. 126). Stan identifies that when the government redraws district boundaries, the regions controlled by...