In July, it organised an open forum on universal suffrage and invited speakers from across the political spectrum. At the pan-democratic end there was Scholarism, People Power and organisers of the Occupy Central movement, and at the other end the radical pro-establishment groups Caring Hong Kong Power and Voice of Loving Hong Kong.
As had been predicted in some quarters, the forum descended into chaos. Arguments broke out between radical pro-establishment supporters and members of People Power, and the speaker from Caring Hong Kong Power leapt onto a table. Although the event had to be suspended, the forum dominated the headlines. Regardless of what had happened, all parties won a considerable amount of media attention.
Ma Ngok, an associate professor of the Department of Government and Public Administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong says the pro-establishment camp and pan-democracy camp have long been fighting for media space. He explains emergent antagonistic groups from the pro-establishment camp, like Caring Hong Kong Power, act by neutralising opposition voices. “They were nobody. But as soon as they stood up, they have occupied the media space, sending out voices that are disproportionate to their prominence,” says Ma.
In a city that enjoys freedom of speech, it should be easy for different voices to find expression. But the New People’s Party’s Kam believes the pan-democratic camp gets more coverage because the mainstream media often find their news “juicier” to report. He says this has created an illusion that many people, especially young people, support pan-democrat causes.
Despite the perception that younger people are getting more radical in a pro-democratic sense, Lee Ka-kiu, a lecturer of the Department of Government and Public Administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, notes there are youngsters inclined to the pro-establishment side. “In university, students majoring in Social Science are more likely to support the pan-democracy camp. But if you ask those majoring in Business Administration, a lot of them are quite conservative or prefer the pro-establishment,” says Lee. He adds many young people working in the business sector are also quite conservative.
As for why more young professionals may be willing to join the pro-establishment camp, Lee points to practical considerations.
“As the pro-establishment camp holds more resources, you could become a district councillor and line up for the Legislative Council election. If you don’t get elected, you could still be appointed to the National People’s Congress or Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Or if you perform well, you could even be a political assistant or undersecretary. It seems an easier path.”