Prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong has been disqualified from running in Sunday’s district council elections, but his party has come up with a plan B, and it could be a winner.

Wong was disqualified from running because he advocates self-determination, which is tantamount to seeking Hong Kong’s independence, and his declarations about his respect for Beijing’s sovereignty over the territory marked a striking departure from his previous stance and were not convincing, an Election Committee official told reporters when explaining Wong’s disqualification at the end of last month.

But Wong’s Demosistō party has been quick to find a plan B candidate, Kelvin Lam, to face off against incumbent district councilor Judy Chan, who is with the pro-Beijing New People’s Party. The seat they will contest is in the affluent South Horizons constituency in Southern District where Wong lives.

A survey by HK01 newspaper, which interviewed more than 100 South Horizons residents, showed that Lam could give Chan a drubbing with an approval rating of 23.8% as he inherits Wong’s election base.

This compares with Chan’s 13.8%, and among Lam’s supporters, mostly young voters, an overwhelming 85% said they would vote for candidates with similar political persuasion, while district and livelihood issues would be “peripheral.”

Joshua Wong and Kelvin Lam. Photo: Handout

Meanwhile, those supporting Chan, a rising star in the pro-Beijing camp, said livelihood issues like housing, education and healthcare should still be the focus of the district polls and the election should not be politicized or hijacked by the ongoing unrest.

The popular divide among the electorate is apparent even in a constituency with a population of about 5,000.

Meanwhile, up to five of the city’s lawmakers who became ex-officio members of the Legislative Council via the District Council functional constituency will also defend their district council and LegCo seats in the upcoming polls.

The five, three from the pan-democratic bloc and two from the pro-establishment camp, will all have to face rivals in their respective districts, but the pan-democrats are thought to be in the reckoning, thanks to the ongoing anti-government protests.

The two pro-Beijing candidates, however, are faced with formidable challenges.

Starry Lee, chairwoman of the city’s largest pro-Beijing political outfit, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), will have a real fight on her hands against veteran democrat and LegCo ex-colleague Leung Kwok-hung, aka “Long Hair,” in her constituency in Kowloon.

Lee’s fellow DAB member Holden Chow may also be unseated by a 25-year-old challenger who belongs to the “paratrooper” generation, a term referring to the youngsters who started their political careers after Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement in 2014, which saw the occupation of the city’s central business district for 79 days to press Beijing for genuine universal suffrage, but to no avail.

Candidates from the pro-Beijing DAB party in a stumping campaign. Photo: Handout

Also, the DAB and other pro-Beijing parties fear that protesters may launch flash demonstrations in districts that are traditionally their political bases to deter voters from getting out and disrupt the polls. Lee and Chow’s constituencies are prime candidates for this.

The police will deploy more constables to patrol and guard these potential flashpoints to ensure order. Voting in Hong Kong’s district council elections will start at 7:30am and end at 10:30pm on Sunday.

Read more: Chaos may help pro-govt underdogs in HK elections