Are Hong Kong youths losing interest in politics? By-election turnout rates suggest they are

The by-election was held in March to fill four seats in the legislature. Photo: Felix Wong

A surge in political interest among Hong Kong’s young people appears to have hit a speed bump, going by turnout rates for the recent Legislative Council by-election.

There was a significant 30 percentage point fall in the turnout rate for the 18-20 age group in the March by-election compared with citywide polls two years ago, polling data obtained by the Post showed.

That was partly to be expected as by-elections usually record low turnouts, but analysis of the data showed the drop across different age groups in general formed a linear curve – meaning the younger the voters, the bigger the decline.

In the 2016 Legco election, voters in the 18-20 group clocked the largest increase in turnout levels – 16 percentage points – compared with the 2012 poll.

Political scientists said the statistics proved the theory that youths, in comparison to older citizens, were more likely to be affected by the political atmosphere in terms of voting behaviour.

“[The significant drop in turnout] has highlighted the frustration and disappointment of the young people,” said political scientist Dr Ma Ngok of Chinese University, adding that such sentiments were amplified by the government’s earlier legal move to disqualify several popularly elected lawmakers.

The by-election was held to fill four of six seats left empty after pro-democracy lawmakers were ousted last year for

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