Hong Kong Politics & Protest

‘Rule by the old’ debate sparked by Joshua Wong’s judicial review of election age limit

The judicial review filed by student activist Joshua Wong to challenge the minimum age required for election candidates has sparked a debate on the age of the city’s lawmakers.

On Tuesday, Wong said that “Hong Kong’s political scene was not healthy” in that the average age of lawmakers is as high as 57. It was one of the reasons why Wong applied for the judicial review, that “gerontocracy” – or society ruled by people who are significantly older than most of the adult population – was a problematic issue.

However, lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan said that he did not need to say those “unnecessary words”, which reflected his lack in knowledge: “Lawmakers were elected by voters, how could it be called gerontocracy?

“They have the right to choose, it is their decision, it is not certain that 20-year-olds are better than those in 40s, or 40s are better than 60s.” Ho will turn 64 years old on December 1.

Joshua Wong (left) and Albert Ho (right).

Joshua Wong (left) and Albert Ho (right). File Photo: Apple Daily.

“What should it be called?”

In response, Wong said on his Facebook page today that “In the 2012 LegCo election, 84 percent of the candidates from the pan-democrat camp on top of the lists were over 50 years old.” The higher the candidates were put on the list, the higher the opportunity they will be elected.

“What should it be called if this is not ‘old people politics’?” he added.

In the statement issued on Monday, Wong also said that the root of “gerontocracy” problem is not just age, “but that the opposition camp in the LegCo is stuck in old conventions. Few lawmakers joined the non-cooperation movement; they cannot represent the voice of resistance of the new generation.”

He added, “The democratic movement of the new generation stresses resistance on all fronts. Now, the protesters born from the movement can only unite and save themselves.”

Wong has applied for legal aid for the case.

Carrie Lam

Carrie Lam. File Photo: Apple Daily.

“Have not received a very strong demand”

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam also responded to Wong’s judicial review before meeting the Executive Council.

Lam said: “As this matter has entered the judicial process, I do not want to represent the government’s stance. I can only say that in a long period in the past, when the democratic progress or election system in Hong Kong were discussed, we have not, sort of, received a very strong demand to lower the age to be a candidate from 21 to 18.”

“Even if there is a very strong demand, it is uncertain if we can amend the law in time,” she added.

In response, Joshua Wong asked on social media: “Am I not a part of society [that demanded the amendment]?”

Regulations

To be eligible for nomination as a candidate at a Legislative Council or District Council election for a constituency, a person must be 21 years of age or over.

Another age limit in elections was listed in the Article 44 of the Basic Law that “The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be a Chinese citizen of not less than 40 years of age who is a permanent resident of the Region with no right of abode in any foreign country and has ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than 20 years.”

'Rule by the old' debate sparked by Joshua Wong's judicial review of election age limit