Two of the most controversial members of the Legislative Council will not seek re-election in September.
Culture sector lawmaker Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, long ranked as the least active legislator, is bringing the curtain down on his 14-year Legco career, according to former supporters, while financial-services representative Chim Pui-chung - whose five terms in Legco were broken by a spell in jail - is set to pull out days after handing in his nomination papers.
Opera singer Barbara Fei Ming-yee revealed Fok's withdrawal as she threw her weight behind Ma Fung-kwok, a local deputy to the National People's Congress and former chairman of the Arts Development Council, in the sports, performing arts, culture and publication sector.
Fellow Beijing loyalist Chim is expected to announce he will not run for a sixth term, despite submitting his nomination on Wednesday.
Chim voted against a fast-track vote on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's plans to restructure the government and was a core supporter of Leung's defeated opponent, Henry Tang Ying-yen, but he denied coming under political pressure to step down.
Fei is one of several former Fok supporters who will switch their backing to Ma for the election on September 9.
Ma is a supporter of Leung and has been tipped as a candidate to be the city's first culture secretary.
'Fok told me that he was not going to run,' Fei said at the campaign launch. 'I believe Fok and Ma sometimes communicate and Fok probably supports Ma.'
Asked if she regretted Fok's decision to step down, Fei said: 'I respect his views. It is difficult to say who I would support if both ran. They have their respective strengths.'
Fok's performance as a member of the Legislative Council has long been criticised. He has had the poorest attendance record in Legco for six years, according to a report last year, and has not put forward a motion in the legislature for a decade. In April, a group of artists launched a campaign for his removal.
Raymond Wong Pak-ming, like Ma a film producer, said he had supported Fok but 'I've heard that Mr Fok might not run this year. Mr Ma has been in the film industry for a long time and is familiar with it, so he is the most suitable candidate'.
Fok, president of the Sports Federation, is in London for the Games. Painter Chow Chun-fai will also fight for the seat, and submitted his nomination yesterday. He has pledged to fight for the abolition of functional constituencies.
Chim was a Legco member from 1991 until he was jailed for conspiring to forge documents in 1998, then returned to Legco in 2004. In 2007, he was treated for cancer and fully recovered.
'I have served as a lawmaker for too long. I will make a formal announcement on Monday,' he said when asked about his intentions last night.
Tang Yu-lap, chairman of the Hantec Group and a Leung supporter, will also run for the seat.
Meanwhile, the Civic Party yesterday announced that it was unable to nominate Southern district councillor Paul Zimmerman to contest one of the five district-council functional-constituency seats, nicknamed super seats because they will be chosen by a city-wide ballot.
The party said it had tried to secure the 15 nominations from district councillors required for the Dutch-born Zimmerman to stand for a super seat, but he might now quit the party and run against its slate of candidates on Hong Kong Island.
'It is a fact that such a move would adversely affect our Hong Kong Island campaign,' the party said.
The Civic Party holds two seats on Hong Kong Island, and fears that a split in its vote could affect the chances of incumbent Tanya Chan winning re-election.
Zimmerman is understood not to have given up hope of running for a super seat, and he is approaching independent district councillors to seek nominations. He will announce his plans on Monday.
Five more slates of candidates registered yesterday to contest the 35 seats in geographical constituencies, taking the total to 57 and beating the total of 53 slates of candidates that fought for 30 seats four years ago. Nominations close on Tuesday.
In the legal sector, former Law Society president Huen Wong, nominated yesterday, said he was confident of beating Dennis Kwok Wing-hang of the Civic Party.
More than 820 people nominated him, including ex-chairman of the Bar Association Russell Coleman.
In the education sector, Ip Kin-yuen, chief executive of the Professional Teachers' Union, signed up to run, a day after union president Fung Wai-wah announced his withdrawal because of illness.