Hong Kong: 5 District Referendum Movement

In order to advocate the implementation of universal suffrage and abolition of functional constituencies in Hong Kong, the Civic Party (CP) and the League of Social Democrats (LSD) launched the 5 district referendum movement through the resignation of 5 legislators in 5 election districts. Candidates from the 2 parties will run in the by-election and invite Hong Kong people to vote for genuine democratic reform. The election date has been set on May 16.

As the China Government openly criticized the 5 district referendum movement a violation of Basic Law, instead of encouraging citizens to execute their rights, SAR government officials stressed that the 5 district referendum would divide the society and for the first time, the government's TV election advertisement does not urge citizen to cast the vote.

The pro-establishment and pro-China party (DAB) and Liberal Party (LP) boycotted the election and criticized it a waste of tax payers’ money. On the other hand, the pan-democrats split up on the referendum movement: Democratic Party (DP) along with a number of independent pan-dem legislators refused to join in, believing that they can strike for a better reform package through talks. They established the Alliance for Universal Suffrage to communicate with the government and pro-establishment parties but there isn't any space for negotiation so far. The government still refuses to draw a roadmap towards genuine universal suffrage.

The recent Government proposal on 2012 political reforms have not reduced the proportion of Functional Constituencies in the Legislative Council. The reform package adds ten seats in the 2012 legislature, of which 5 seats are from district direct election and the other five seats will be elected by District Council members through “proportional representation”, which implies that the pro-establishment party DAB (Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong) will get a majority of the 5 seats as they are more resourceful in community work.

In order to create a voting opportunity, a number of University Student Unions form a 2012 Universal Suffrage Alliance and back up 5 student candidates to participate in the by-election. The alliance believes that social injustice in the city comes from the collusion between the political and economic privileged groups and the Functional Constituencies is the result of such political corruption. Their declaration, distributed via facebook and various websites states that:


The unjust political system is reinforcing the collusion between corporate and government bureaucrats. As a matter of fact, legislators elected by Functional Constituencies have been obstructing beneficial social policies that reallocate resource and wealth to create a fairer society. These policies include legislation on minimum wages, fair competition and screen building, monitoring the private property market and repurchasing back the Link Real Estate Investment Trust with public fund, and etc. The discussion on minimum wage recently reflects the problem of the current political system.

The student alliance then proposes a series of reform in areas such as taxation and education and stresses the inter connection between people's livelihood and democratic reform.

To encourage more people to vote on 16 of May, Civic Party produces a video juxtaposing the personal history of an old man with the political history of Hong Kong. The video has been widely circulated online and below is a translation of the script:


My name is Yip Kwok Hua. I am in my sixties and start to forget many things. However, I still remember the spring in 1989 when my wife whispered her last words to me before she died: you have to see our kids getting married, the firework during the handover and the sunrise in the Millennium. Most of her wishes had come true and now 20 years have passed. It seems that Hong Kong has changed a lot but at the same time little has been changed. We can't see kids playing in the street anymore and their parents are working days and nights to pay off their house mortgage. Many places where I used to date with my wife have been torn down, disappeared and changed into cold and indifferent shopping malls. Many old friends have passed away. Remember at the time when my wife was sick in bed, she said in confident that within 20 years Hong Kong will have genuine democracy. I laughed at her simple mindedness and her conservatism. Unfortunately, today's newspapers are still full of absurdity. Legislators who represent minority voices over-rule 7 million people's will. In this open society, some still said the Chief Executive elected by 800 people can represent Hong Kong.


1990 – Basic Law was announced and it promises that Hong Kong will eventually have universal suffrage for the SAR Chief Executive and Legislative Council.
1997 – The Chief Executive Tung Chee-hua was elected by 400 people.
2004 – The People Congress reinterpreted the Basic Law and ruled out universal suffrage on 2007 and 2008
2007 – Donald Tsang promised to stand firm on Universal Suffrage
2009 – The SAR government recycled the reform package without any time table for universal suffrage
2010 – Functional Constituencies still exists today



However, I have never doubted and will never give up hope. People around me are still voicing out and trying very hard to work their way out. My wife once said that no one can be sure about the future, and no one can deny the future. People are voicing out and we have to believe on the vote in our hand. Very soon we will be successful.

Vote for democracy in May 16. Abolition of the Functional Constituencies for genuine democracy.

As a result of the boycott from pro-establishment, the referendum movement does not have much mainstream media coverage and informations on election forum are mainly distributed via Facebook. There are various groups on Facebook for collecting campaign informations and posters:

HK5Vote channel: a collection of video materials on the campaign

Referendum for democracy: a collection of media reports and material about the movement

May 16 voting handbook: to mobilize people to vote on May 16



  • […] Hong Kong, where local citizens are still struggling for universal suffrage, this year's 5-district referendum movement was one of the city's landmark attempts. While the central government's presence continues […]

  • […] to the leaders of student protest group Scholarism. YP cadet Emily Ting, yp.scmp.com, 31/07/2012 “Hong Kong – 5 District Referendum Movement”. Oiwan Lam, globalvoicesonline.org, 03/05/2010 “Dân Hồng Kông muốn tự do bầu cử”, […]

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