Hong Kong pan-democrats list ways Carrie Lam could mend ties after ouster of four lawmakers
Waiving massive legal fees and ensuring fair by-elections among high hopes
Hong Kong’s pan-democrats have suggested some ways the city’s new leader could try to mend ties with their camp after her good start suddenly went sour over a court ruling unseating four pro-democracy lawmakers.
While the lawsuit was orchestrated by former leader Leung Chun-ying, the camp argued that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had the responsibility as well as ample room to atone for the move which they likened to a “declaration of war” upon Hongkongers.
The city’s High Court dropped a political bombshell last Friday by stripping four lawmakers – Lau Siu-lai, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, and Edward Yiu Chung-yim – of their seats for improper oath-taking. It followed the disqualification of two separatist lawmakers-elect, Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang.
“It cannot be called a reconciliation when the government on the one hand launches political repression against the legislature while on the other hand offers it some sweeteners,” he said.
Chu claimed there were several things Lam could do to show her sincerity in mending ties in the wake of the court judgment, such as waiving the massive legal fees of the four freshly ousted lawmakers and ensuring a by-elections arrangement that was fair.
Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting, of the University of Hong Kong, urged Lam to promise not to back any attempts to change Legco’s rule book and not to push a contentious national security bill before all the by-elections were carried out.
The pro-democracy camp now demanded the government hold two rounds of by-elections – one for the two seats vacated by Sixtus Leung and Yau last year and another for the other four seats. It claimed that otherwise the bloc would lose two seats under proportional representation, given there are two vacancies each in Kowloon West and New Territories East.
The chief executive’s office on Sunday did not directly address whether Lam would consider the pan-democrats’ suggestions.
The office said the future by-election would be held once the vacancies in Legco were declared and subject to several factors, including manpower arrangements, procurement of venues for use as polling stations and use of public money in an economical manner.
Political observer Dr Chung Kim-wah, of Polytechnic University, said Lam was unlikely to heed the camp’s demands, given the pro-establishemnt bloc now had a rare opportunity to amend Legco’s rule book in curbing filibusters.
“Lam’s relations with the pan-democrats will definitely remain tense in the short term, but the political gains and stability capitalising on the situation would be lasting,” he said, adding Beijing would be keen to see the chief executive take full advantage of the court ruling.
The far-reaching judgment not only cost the bloc its limited veto power in the Legislative Council, but also spoiled Lam’s bid to repair the government’s relationship with the legislature, which had hit a new low during Leung’s administration.
Lam’s plan was originally on a promising track. Pan-democrats showered her with praise after her first question-and-answer session, and they initially approved HK$3.6 billion in funding for education, an objective of her election manifesto.
But the court ruling undid the progress. On Saturday, Legco’s finance meeting was aborted by pan-democrats’ protest, leaving the fate of the education funding up in the air.
Chung described the pan-democrats as finding themselves in an embarrassing position, particularly with the education sector, a stronghold of the camp, which he believed did not want to see lawmakers obstruct its long-awaited funding.
On Sunday, the Professional Teachers’ Union and education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung separately called on lawmakers to back the funding request before lawmakers’ summer recess.
Other funding requests awaiting the finance committee’s approval were related to the development of the Tung Chung new town and three hospitals.
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai on Sunday had nothing to add ahead of the camp’s internal meeting on Monday to discuss their next move.
“The situation is complicated,” he said. “We need to think clearly about how to proceed.”