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Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Pan-democratic camp will need to unite if they are to secure landslide in next year’s by-election in Hong Kong

Three seats should be a sure win but if they fail to work together, they could end up with nothing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 September, 2017, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 September, 2017, 6:15pm

At least three of the four seats in Hong Kong’s coming by-election should be a sure win for the city’s pro-democracy bloc, but if they fail to work together they could end up with nothing, lawmakers have said.

Success may also hinge on whether any of the candidates are ruled invalid by electoral officials.

The government announced on Thursday that the polls would be scheduled for March 11, setting the scene for a face-off between young democracy activists, former legislators and pro-establishment rising stars.

More than 2.1 million voters will decide who gets the Legislative Council seats vacated by Demosisto’s Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Youngspiration’s Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang in the Hong Kong Island, Kowloon West and New Territories East geographical constituencies respectively.

In the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency, 7,619 voters will choose someone to fill the fourth seat, vacated by Edward Yiu Chung-yim.

Judging by the electors’ voting pattern in the Legislative Council elections a year ago, the functional constituency still hangs in the balance, as Yiu only won with 43.4 per cent of the votes, while his two pro-Beijing rivals got 35 per cent and 21.5 per cent, respectively.

It remains to be seen whether a pro-democracy candidate can win a one-on-one contest in the sector, but Yiu said he is confident.

“Maybe some who voted for a pro-establishment candidate last year will vote for a pro-democracy aspirant this time,” Yiu said, reiterating that he would leave it for his allies to decide whether he should be the one to run again.

For the three geographical constituencies, pundits said it is sure win for pan-democrats, as they have won 57.9 per cent and 57.5 per cent of the vote share in New Territories East and Kowloon West, respectively. On Hong Kong Island, they won 48.1 per cent of the votes, outdoing the Beijing loyalists’ 40 per cent.

Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung said Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai, who were also disqualified over improper oath-taking, should be given the priority should they decide to contest their lost seats. They are currently appealing against their disqualification.

Law was imprisoned for his role in an unlawful protest, but his girlfriend, Demosisto core member Tiffany Yuen Ka-wai, has been tipped to run in the Hong Kong Island constituency.

Civic Party vice-chairwoman and legislator Tanya Chan believes that her camp is likely to win all four seats in March if they can agree on one candidate in each constituency.

“We will assess on who are the candidates with the best chance, though we have yet to discuss on the method of assessment,” Chan said.

The pan-democrats have coordinated with some success in the past. In January 2012, Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan clinched victory by a large margin in a “primary” poll to become a candidate for the city’s leadership election, with Frederick Fung Kin-kee giving way.

But Yiu said it might be impractical to hold such a primary that could involve many more hopefuls this time.

“It could cost every candidate hundreds of thousand dollars ... and we cannot be sure whether such a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ would work – whether those who lost or refused to take part in the primary would not stand for the by-election eventually anyway,” he said.

“I am also worried that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor would make use of the declaration form to ban some of us from running,” Yiu said.

In the run-up to the Legco election last year, electoral officials introduced a controversial declaration form which required candidates to confirm their acceptance of Hong Kong’s status as an inalienable part of China.

Six candidates, including some who signed the form and some who did not, had their nominations invalidated over their advocacy of the city’s independence from China.

In a statement, the Civic Party said its five lawmakers had sent a joint petition to Electoral Affairs Commission chairman Mr Justice Barnabas Fung Wah and urged him to explain whether the declaration form would be used again in the run-up to the by-election.

“The form was used to screen candidates and it undermined the fairness and justness of the election ... It would be absolutely unacceptable for the form to become a standard arrangement in elections,” the statement read.

In response to the Civic Party’s petition, a spokesman for the commission said it would arrange and monitor the by-elections in accordance with the law.