23 July 2015
Since China took control of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, the city's billionaires have played a leading role in hewing the Asian financial center to Beijing's priorities. So too have a dwindling band of fishermen and farmers.
The desire of China's communist leaders to enlist the tycoons' cooperation is understandable given the influence they have through their control of large swathes of the semiautonomous Chinese city's economy. Chinese President Xi Jinping last year summoned a group of them for an emergency meeting as political tensions in Hong Kong mounted.
Less known outside Hong Kong, however, is the political role of fishermen and farmers, remnant industries in Hong Kong that form a large slice of the 1,200-member committee that selects the southern Chinese city's pro-Beijing leader. They also have their own representative in the territory's legislature.
Fishing and farming make up less than 1 percent of Hong Kong's $274 billion economy but command 60 votes in the leadership committee, far more than groups or industries with much greater economic or social significance.
Their outsized role is a source of discontent in a city that was rocked by pro-democracy protests over the past year as many Hong Kongers chafed against a rising tide of mainland Chinese influence...
The quirky election system is a legacy of the British, who in the 1980s introduced legislative elections that gave seats to the business and interest groups, known as functional constituencies.