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Legislative Council elections 2016

New radicals, bigger headaches for CY Leung: five things to look out for in Hong Kong’s new Legco

The 26 new faces among the legislature’s 70 lawmakers are about to open a new political chapter in the city

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2016, 9:39am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2016, 10:28am

As the new four-year Legislative Council term officially starts today, we focus on five things new and unique among the 70 lawmakers. Among them are 26 new faces. Some have embarked on the controversial path of pushing for self-determination and independence for Hong Kong, forsaking the “one country, two systems” model that governs the city’s ties with China. And perhaps most unsettling for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, few of them are supportive of him seeking re-election in March.

1. New radicals, new agenda

Six localists have been elected to the legislature, turning a new chapter in Hong Kong’s political history where advocates of Hong Kong independence plan to make use of the platform to promote an agenda deemed toxic by Beijing. Occupy Movement student leader Nathan Law Kwun-chung, an ally of the movement’s most prominent face Joshua Wong Chi-fung, has already proven himself a mature orator after his election victory, say observers who have seen him in action. At 23, he also happens to be the youngest lawmaker to be elected to Legco.

Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang of Youngspiration seems ready to recruit as his assistant Edward Leung Tin-kei, arguably the first independence fighter deemed the poster boy for the cause among the young generation when he garnered more than 66,000 votes in a by-election. Leung was disqualified by the government from running in the recent election for his pro-independence stand. For these young people, it is not a matter of whether the sensitive agenda not uncommon among postcolonial polities will be pursued in Hong Kong’s legislature – it is a matter of how.

2. New faces making waves online ... not always for the right reasons

Eunice Yung Hoi-yan: The New People’s Party newbie has been widely mocked by netizens for her comments about parallel traders, the liaison office and even the Legco conference schedule. Even Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, the party chairwoman, concluded that her debating skills were weak.

Yau Wai-ching: Netizens are eagerly looking forward to more controversial and juicy remarks from the 25-year-old Youngspiration lawmaker after she lamented how people did not have “enough space to shag” in a crowded city like Hong Kong last week.

Roy Kwong Chun-yu: His fondness for punctuation in his romance novels is a never-ending subject of online satire, but the Democratic Party lawmaker grabbed an exclamation mark-worthy 490,000 votes, the highest count ever for a legislative candidate in Hong Kong’s history. A question mark now hangs over whether his performance can live up to his level of electoral support.

Wilson Or Chong-shing: The lawmaker from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress has yet to offer a satisfactory response on why he did not declare his educational background on his Legco page, after media found no record of him studying at Nottingham Trent University, an institution from which he had earlier claimed he obtained a master’s degree.

3. Pan-democrats could get a role

Another focus is how many chairmanships will go to pan-democrats among the Legco’ many panels and subcommittees. James To Kun-sun, the most senior pan-democrat lawmaker, earlier announced that the camp would no longer negotiate with pro-establishment lawmakers over who got what panel chairmanship, criticising them for giving too few seats to the camp that won more votes from the public.

“We will field lawmakers to vie for chairmanships in all panels and committees,” he said. Whether that will result in any gains remains to be seen.

4. A new, less amiable, Legco head?

Succeeding a popular Legco president like Jasper Tsang Yok-sing is no easy task. The pro-establishment camp, which has the say on who gets the job, is poised to send Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen into the hot seat. But Leung won in an unopposed functional constituency, arousing furore not only among pan-democrats, but also New People’s Party’s Michael Tien Puk-sun, who had wanted to run for the job and called in vain for a primary election among pro-establishment candidates. In a move to impress opponents who chided him for his hardline approach, Leung had this to say to those who think he lacks amiable facial expressions: “Maybe I should get plastic surgery in Korea.”

5. A bigger headache for CY Leung

In just five months the city will elect its next chief executive. The incumbent, Leung Chun-ying ,and his government have not had an easy relationship with lawmakers. Not only are the pan-democrats and localists opposed to his leadership, several pro-establishment lawmakers have also grown more critical of him. Chief among them are the Liberal Party lawmakers, whose election platform featured the slogan “ABC” – Anyone But CY. Ip, the New People’s Party chairwoman who is a member of Leung’s Executive Council, also said there was “no reason” she would not consider joining the race, despite admitting there were difficulties. The localists, all of whom were leaders of the Occupy protests of 2014, are also no fans of Leung. The expectation is that very little will get done until the CE race. Expect drama, antics and filibustering to contribute to a bigger headache for Leung than with the previous Legco.

Stay tuned for our live coverage on scmp.com