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Legislative Council by-election 2018

Hong Kong voters are rational and by-election result was expected, says Beijing’s former top man in city Wang Guangya

Former official in charge of local affairs says pan-democratic camp only have themselves to blame for poll defeat

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2018, 3:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2018, 11:07pm

The pro-establishment camp’s historic victory in a Hong Kong legislative by-election on Sunday showed voters are “rational” and that excessive political wrangling could be “unfavourable” to the city’s well-being, according to a former top Beijing official in charge of local affairs.

Wang Guangya, who was director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office from 2010 until last year, said the pan-democratic camp only had themselves to blame after failing to regain their power to veto proposals put forward by their rivals in the legislature.

The Legislative Council by-election was held to fill four of six seats vacated by pro-democracy lawmakers when they were disqualified for improper oaths of office in 2016.

While pan-democrats Au Nok-hin and Gary Fan Kwok-wai won in the Hong Kong Island and New Territories East constituencies respectively, disqualified legislator Edward Yiu Chung-yim lost in Kowloon West and Paul Zimmerman fell in the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency.

Yiu was the first pro-democracy candidate to be defeated by a pro-Beijing rival in a Legco by-election for a geographical seat, since Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Speaking in Beijing, Wang said the results were “not bad”.

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“It shows Hong Kong people are rational after all ... The pro-establishment camp made some progress in the geographical direct election, and the result in the functional constituency was the way it should be,” he said.

Wang, who is attending the annual session of the National People’s Congress as a deputy from Guangdong province, added that the election result showed people hoped Hong Kong would not be embroiled in conflict.

“People with different opinions can discuss them among each other, but if you often engage in too many political activities, that’s unfavourable for Hong Kong’s development. So I think the voting result was what the people expected,” he said.

Wang added that the pan-democrats only had themselves to blame for their losses.

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“This situation was caused by a few lawmakers who triggered the oath-taking saga ... To a certain extent, this was caused by themselves. People hope the nation and Hong Kong will develop, but in recent years, Hong Kong has been more politicised,” Wang said.

“Some people went further than others in their political acts. Whether they were advocating the city’s self-determination or independence, they contravened the Basic Law and the ‘one country, two systems’ principle.”

He was referring to Hong Kong’s mini-constitution and governing formula, under which the city is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy.

Among the six disqualified lawmakers, two were stripped of their seats for pledging allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation” in their oaths and for using derogatory language to refer to China. The others were disqualified for chanting slogans, adding phrases to, or pausing between each word in the oath.

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Wang hoped the election results would “make people more sober in thinking of Hong Kong’s long-term development”.

There are 70 seats in the legislature, half of which represent geographical constituencies. The other half represent professional sectors in Hong Kong.

Under Legco’s split voting rule, a motion put forward by a lawmaker can only be approved with majority support from each of the two groups.

Before the oath-taking saga, the pro-democracy camp dominated the geographical constituencies, with 19 seats, while the pro-Beijing camp controlled 24 functional seats. The two camps were therefore able to veto each other’s motions.

The pan-democrats lost that veto power with the disqualifications, and were hoping to regain it by winning all three geographical seats on March 11. They now continue to be at a disadvantage in the geographical group with 16 seats, while their rivals have 17.