Are they Hong Kong’s third party? – analysis of Legco voting record 2012-13

Voting Network graph. Photo Credit: Ben Chow

Voting Network Graph. Photo Credit: Benjamin Zhou

The resignation of pan-democratic lawmakers Ronny Tong Ka-wah last June has sparked stirred up the call for centrism in Hong Kong, where legislators are traditionally  separated into either  pro-establishment or pan-democracy group. After an analysis of voting records, however, a group of lawmakers stand out they have voted to some extent differently from their political allies.

The seven include all six lawmakers from The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU) and the one from The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions (FLU). They are Chan Yuen-han, Alice Mak, Tang Ka-piu, Wong Kwok-hing, Wong Kwok-kin, Kwok Wai-keung and Poon Siu-ping.

Voting Network Graph. Photo Credit: Benjamin Zhou

 

The interactive graph visualizes voting relationships during the 2012-2013 session of the Legislative Council, with each node representing a legislator. Note that the closer the two legislators are, the more similarly they voted. Their stances seem to be polarized, except for the seven.

According to its official website, the HKFTU is an organization dedicated to fully participating in labor, social and political affairs, safeguarding the rights of employees and providing a variety of welfare benefits. The FLU is a similar institution. They are traditionally regarded as pro-establishment or pro-Beijing organizations in terms of their political standing.

When it came to livelihood and economic issues, the seven labor representatives sometimes chose stand with their political enemies.

For instance, the seven’s votes regarding the regulation of working hours and the right to collective bargaining were quite different from the attitudes of one of their well-known pro-Beijing allies, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress (DAB), and more similar to The Democratic Party from the opposite camp.

When it comes to political issues, however, the seven lawmakers chose to be back among the pro-establishment camp, as another graph shows.

Legco initially released the voting records during 2012-2013 session in a machine-readable format, namely Extensible Markup Language (XML) in September 2013. The initiative by the Legco enables the data to be crunched and visualized by computer.

The US began to publish the voting records of Congress in XML format in 2009, allowing non-government organizations as Govtrack and media to show lawmakers’ voting patterns by presenting the data in user-friendly manners.

As a trend to increase transparency, many jurisdictions also release data of public sectors in machine-readable format. Hong Kong Legco is the one of the most recent case.

However, it is still hard draw a conclusion that Legco members have been divided into three groups since the voting records in XML format are limited to those from October 2012. To see exactly how lawmakers vote, the new format data in the past and future need to be released.

Notes:

1. The graphic is based on the Legco’s voting result of 2012-2013 session on 224 motions. There were 911 motions, including motions proposed by both the legislators and the government. 687 amendments to ‘Appropriation Bill 2013’ have been excluded from the analysis as they are generally regarded as filibusters. The whole dataset can be viewed here.

4. We calculate how many same votes between every two legislators out of the votes on 224 motions, and the larger the number, the closer attitude they hold.

5. The graphic is drawn by graphic visualisation application Gephi based on the variable ‘Samerate’, and the larger the ‘Samerate’ is, the closer the two legislators are. For example, Lee Cheuk-yan is next to Ronny Tong in the graphic since 162 of their votes are the same, while Ng Leung-sing, the farthest point, only share 21 same votes with Lee.

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