Democrat new boys defending key seats
Pan-democrats are fighting what could be their tightest races in two political strongholds.
However, their grip on the legal and education constituencies has been weakened in the Legislative Council election after two veterans decided not to seek re-election, pitting their intended successors against strong competition from the pro-establishment camp or self-styled independents.
Civic Party barrister Dennis Kwok Wing-hang is facing former Law Society president Huen Wong, described by legal insiders as the solicitor candidate with the best chance of winning the seat.
Kwok knows he has a tough job to hold on to the support base of veteran lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, the legal-sector representative for 17 years.
'No doubt it is a very difficult,' he said. 'But I will tell my constituents that a legislator has a very special role to stand by the rule of law and offer checks and balances to the government.'
The up-and-coming barrister, 34, may be less prominent than his opponent but insists he can do the job.
'I have to tell [constituents] that I have been working in the political field for a while. I also served in the Bar Association and have experience in policy research,' said Kwok, who is backed by legal figures such as Denis Chang Kin-lee, Gladys Li, and Ng.
Ng won the seat in 2008 with 2,468 votes, almost double the 1,286 won by Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, another former Law Society president.
Wong said he was not a pro-establishment candidate, although he had met officials from the central government's liaison office about two months ago. Kwok has called that meeting 'inappropriate'.
Wong said: 'As a former president of the Law Society and a solicitor it is inevitable to have contact with liaison officials. For most solicitors, having contact with mainland officials is unavoidable.'
In the legal constituency, pan-democrats 'only consider Civic Party members as being in the pan-democratic camp', he said, but his support for vindication of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protesters and abolition of the functional constituencies showed his credentials, Wong said.
In the education sector, Professional Teachers' Union chief executive Ip Kin-yuen is trying to keep the seat held by Cheung Man-kwong in the face of a challenge from the vice-chairman of the Education Convergence pressure group, Ho Hon-kuen.
Ip's candidacy came after the sudden withdrawal of union chairman Fung Wai-wah because of ill health.
'I am cautiously confident, as I started preparation not very long ago,' Ip said. 'But the union has years of experience. I started late but I believe I can take over [the support] accumulated by Fung in his previous campaign.'
Ip acknowledged that his biggest handicap was the short time he had left for campaigning.
Ho, who lost to Cheung by 37,876 votes to 12,272 in 2008, said he hoped to gain 'non-partisan support' in order to 'break the union's monopoly'.
In December's chief executive election committee election, both candidates won an education seat with Ip getting 14,009 votes and Ho 6,975 votes.