Joshua Wong Chi-fung was the only candidate to be disqualified from the 2019 District Council Elections, and the possibility of another disqualification in the 2020 LegCo elections loomed large over our conversation as we met to discuss crucial livelihood issues in the upcoming election.
As we talked, Wong was staring down the second barrel of the DQ shotgun, with Returning Officer Alice Choi testing his responses to the city’s new National Security Law ahead of approving or rejecting his nomination for a Kowloon East candidacy.
And just hours later, Wong was banned from the LegCo race. Choi said previous statements made by the young politician showed, she believed, that he had no “real intention to perform his role and duties faithfully as a LegCo member within the constitutional framework.”
Talking exclusively with Transit Jam to introduce his transport policy, even before his disqualification was announced, Wong says he expected nothing less of the government. “Since the protests broke out last year, the government has already placed its own political agenda way over the liveability of Hong Kong citizens,” he says.
There’s a sharp contrast between Wong’s actual policies and the way he is portrayed. According to Global Times, writing after Wong’s District Council candidacy DQ in October last year, Wong is “trying to “get rid of Hong Kong’s Basic Law and turn the city into an anti-China fortress manipulated by the US.”
But Wong’s District Council platform was, in fact, simply the mundane minutiae that don’t make headlines but have a real impact on people’s lives: his election promises included re-routing the 90 bus via South Horizons; introducing section fares for the A10 Airport bus, effectively adding an extra affordable bus route for the southern district; creating water taxi services from Ap Lei Chau; and boosting the number of motorbike parking spaces in the district.
Disqualification couldn’t tame Wong’s District Council proposals in 2019 – his backup candidate Kelvin Lam went on to take the seat and today works to promote these South Horizons election promises. “[My] initiatives remain on [Kelvin’s] agenda and he is working tirelessly with fellow DC colleagues to strive for implementation,” says Wong, and it’s likely the controversial candidate will forge ahead with his LegCo policy ideas through a backup candidate here too, should any legal challenge to the disqualification prove unsuccessful.
For the next LegCo term, as uncertain as his physical presence at Tamar might be, Wong’s transport vision is broad and bold. He focuses on buses, street design, cycling and water transport, while tackling the growth in numbers of private cars.
First and foremost, he says, buses and minibuses should be prioritised over private vehicles.
“Bus services are, de facto, kept in a quota on busy corridors,” he says. “This approach minimises the number of alternatives that citizens have on transport options. The government should start treating buses as a primary form of public transport in its own right, and lift the cap on bus services on busy corridors.”
Wong calls out the government’s “railway backbone” policy as a failure to residents. “Buses and minibuses account for 48% mode share amongst all public transport trips in 2016, versus 37% for MTR. However, the government chose to maintain a railway backbone policy that favours reliance on the MTR and seeks to reduce bus and minibus services in areas where new railway lines are built.”
For vehicles, Wong supports harder measures on reducing vehicle numbers, as he says previous attempts through raising first registration tax and vehicle licence fees have had little impact. “Car-pooling should also be encouraged to reduce private car trips in rush hours,” he says.
Wong believes bicycles offer a latent opportunity to improve transport networks. “I believe that many citizens will consider cycling in urban areas as their main or first/last mile transport mode, if they are provided with a safe and well-connected urban cycling network. There is a huge untapped potential to promote cycling as an alternative for citizens who wish to have autonomy in mobility options,” he says.
And finally, he says at-grade crossings, for pedestrians, should always be prioritised over footbridges and underpasses. “Street design should be human-oriented and prioritise walkability over vehicle movement wherever appropriate. Footways should be widened at areas with high footfall, and pedestrians should be allowed to cross at their most convenient locations,” he says.
Could such dangerous and subversive ideas have cost Wong his candidacy? The government says the mass disqualifications announced today are related to allegations of “soliciting intervention by foreign governments” (which Wong categorically denies), and the opposition’s plan to disrupt LegCo by “indiscriminately voting down any legislative proposals, appointments, funding applications and budgets introduced by the HKSAR Government after securing a majority in the LegCo so as to force the Government to accede to certain political demands.”
Wong says the government itself has been playing such games, for example in obstructing the work of the District Councils. “Given the worsening political climate, we have been left with no choice but to prioritise confronting the oppression on all fronts,” he says.
Transit Jam has contacted hundreds of candidates and primary candidates, political parties and organisations, seeking candidate views on transport policy from across the political spectrum. To date, only three have responded: Jeffrey Andrews (Kowloon West, now dropped out), Lee Chi-yung (New Territories East, now dropped out), and Joshua Wong Chi-fung (Kowloon East, now disqualified). Candidates from all political parties are welcome to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in our LegCo 2020 Election Guide.