From Occupy Movement to Anti-Extradition: A More Polarised Political Landscape

Five years have passed since the 2014 Occupy movement, and Hong Kong is now experiencing yet another political turmoil over the extradition amendment bill. The two main political camps, pro-establishment and pan-democrats, are again drawn to the extreme opposite of the government and the protesters.

Despite the call for unity from Chief Executive Carrie Lam in her victory speech after being elected in 2017, there has been little sign of reconciliation between lawmakers from different camps, as shown in an analysis on the voting behaviour of lawmakers since 2012.

By analysing over 1,700 votes held in LegCo meetings, network graphs are drawn to visualise the similarity of voting behaviour between lawmakers. Each circle in the graph represents a lawmaker, and its colour represents their political party membership. The lines connecting the circles indicate the similarity between any two members—shorter and darker green lines represent higher similarity.

Lawmakers’ amendment motions submitted for filibustering such as those for the Appropriation Bill 2013 are removed from the analysis. Members with a valid voting rate (i.e. only counting votes casted as “yes” or “no”, excluding abstention) below 50% are left out of the analysis as well.

A more polarised LegCo

The network graph of the fifth term of LegCo (2012-2016) clearly shows a division between two clusters of lawmakers, mainly consisting of pro-establishment members and pan-democrats respectively. The distance and colour of the green lines between the clusters are further and paler respectively, indicating lower degree of agreement between members of each cluster. Meanwhile, the shorter and darker green lines within clusters mean higher degree of agreement between members  of the same cluster.

The graph clearly illustrates the political division in LegCo, as the membership of the clusters is basically the same with that of pro-establishment and pan-democratic camps.

The political division between the two camps appears to be more conspicuous than before as shown by a larger gap between the two clusters. Meanwhile, lawmaker Charles Mok who was previously more neutral in voting has now sided with the pan-democrats. Both of which demonstrate a higher degree of disagreement between political camps, and thus a more polarised LegCo.

A more united pro-establishment camp vs diverging pan-dems

Lawmakers from the same political camp do hold different stance from time to time due to the different ideals and sectors that they and their parties represent, for instance the Liberal Party and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions over the issue of minimum wage. Political camps are not entirely united.

As shown in the graph, members of the pro-establishment camp largely shared similar voting behaviour in the fifth term of LegCo. Still, a number of lawmakers such as those from the Liberal Party and the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong voted relatively more differently amongst their pro-establishment counterparts.

Lawmakers from the same party also tended to vote more similarly than others within the pro-establishment camp as indicated by the darker green lines linking circles of the same colour.

The non-pro-establishment camp saw similar phenomenon. Lawmakers from major pan-democratic parties such as the Democratic Party, the Labour Party and the Civic Party shared higher similarity of voting behaviour, while the agreement between the more radical lawmakers namely Leung Kwok-hung and Wong Yuk-man and the other pan-democrats were apparently lower.

These observations show that disagreement within political camps was not uncommon in the previous LegCo as party membership to some extent had more influence on lawmakers’ voting decision.

But the situation has seen some shifts in the current term of LegCo.

Pro-establishment lawmakers now share much higher similarity than before, as shown by the now shorter and darker green lines in the network graph of the sixth LegCo. The number of lawmakers who deviate from the camp has reduced, signifying a more united pro-establishment camp.

Things however have changed differently on the other side. Compared to the previous term, the cluster of the pan-democratic camp is more spread out in the graph, hinting a decreasing level of agreement even for members of the same party. The divergence among pan-democrats is even more obvious in face of the rising unity in the pro-establishment camp.

The analysis reveals a more polarised political scene after the first LegCo election after the 2014 Occupy movement. The change is accompanied with a more united pro-establishment camp and a weaker pan-democratic camp. As the former has become the majority in LegCo owing to the oath-taking controversy, the result is seemingly a legislature with less resistance to Carrie Lam’s governance. Whether or not the anti-extradition movement would reset the distribution of influence of the two political camps in LegCo will soon be revealed in the coming legislative year.


按此閱覽本文之中文版。Chinese version of this article can be accessed here.

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