Pan-democrats are scrambling to reach agreement on a way to scupper government efforts to ram through a law scrapping by-elections.
But many find the options, which include a mass resignation eclipsing the one that sparked the bill in the first place, have serious drawbacks.
The 23 lawmakers are united in wanting to block the legislation, which the government has sprung upon the legislature. It would mean a directly elected lawmaker who died, resigned or was disqualified midterm would be replaced by the next-best-placed candidate in the constituency at the previous election, regardless of political affiliation. The camp says this removes a basic voting right.
The eight pan-democrats attending a Legco committee meeting to consider the government's bill walked out on Wednesday, then resigned from the committee along with four others. But if they can't agree what to do next, their newfound unity will be destroyed.
The pan-democrats will discuss the issue today. Some have suggested mounting a filibuster; others suggest resigning en masse from the legislator. But there is opposition to both.
People Power lawmaker Wong Yuk-man - one of five who resigned in 2009 to trigger by-elections they hoped would serve as de facto referendum on political reform - wants all 23 pan-democrats to quit for what would be a referendum on the by-elections bill. Opponents said it would do more harm than good and do nothing to stop the legislation. The by-elections last year lie behind the move to scrap such votes.
Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said: 'I won't accept a mass resignation. The government would be happy if any pan-democrat quit Legco.' Civic Act-up lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan agreed. 'If all 23 of us left Legco, there would be no one checking the government, and there would be more disgusting legislation,' said Ho.
'In the early '90s, we boycotted the then provisional Legco, but it only led to more undesirable laws gaining passage easily,' she said, referring to the unelected body formed to unwind laws passed in the last years of the colonial government. 'We might create a noise for a while, but we could not bear the adverse consequences that would follow.'
Ho also dismissed the option of a filibuster - piling on amendments to push the vote past the start of Legco's summer recess on July 13. 'The administration could apply to extend the meeting,' she said.
Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the pan-democrats were enjoying a brief spell of unity in their opposition to the by-election law. 'But they lack many viable options to fight back at the bill ... they will split apart very soon,' he said.
Number of people who had shown their support within 24 hours for a Facebook page calling on the pan-democratic lawmakers to resign en masse