The prospect of competitive by-elections being used as a 'de facto referendum' on universal suffrage now looks increasingly likely, after five members of the youth group Tertiary 2012 submitted their nominations yesterday to contest all five constituencies in May. Three other candidates also submitted their nominations, leaving Kowloon East as the only constituency with one candidate. The five from the youth group, who have little political experience, said they had each raised the HK$50,000 deposit after a week of fund-raising through the internet. The most prominent is Crystal Chow Ching, a former secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, who was outspoken during the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests in June last year. She will contest New Territories East, where former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung also submitted his nomination yesterday. Other candidates from the youth group are Leung Wing-ho, who will contest Hong Kong Island; Wong Weng-chi in Kowloon West; Luke Lai King-fai in Kowloon East; and Kwok Wing-kin in New Territories West. All five say they support the cause of the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats, which hope to turn the by-elections into a de facto referendum on reform but have no formal alliance with political parties. 'The most important thing is that we are trying to help boost the turnout and ensure greater participation in the elections. Whether you vote for us, or either the Civic Party or the League, you will be voting in favour of democracy,' Chow said. However, the five stressed that their platform places a greater emphasis on persisting on universal suffrage in both the chief executive and Legislative Council elections in 2012. Group spokesman Wong Kai-hing said: 'We still cannot see any good reason why we have to delay universal suffrage until 2017 and 2020. We want to send a clear message that the public still hopes to see universal suffrage in 2012.' He said the turnout in the elections would show the level of support for universal suffrage and abolition of functional constituencies. Civic Party lawmakers Tanya Chan and Alan Leong Kah-kit and League members Albert Chan Wai-yip, Wong Yuk-man and Leung resigned from the Legislative Council this year, triggering by-elections for their seats on May 16. They are expected to seek re-election on a common platform of universal suffrage and abolition of functional constituencies, thereby using their votes as a measure of support for their issue. It is unclear how the participation of the five young people will affect the de facto referendum plan. One Civic Party member said Kowloon East, where Leong will compete but has yet to submit his nomination, was a case in point. League supporters may prefer to vote for the candidate with the more radical 2012 message, which is closer to the league's stance. The Civic Party is expected to discuss the effect of the youth group after the Easter holiday. Asked whether league supporters may now be drawn towards other candidates, league chairman Andrew To Kwan-hang said it was impossible to tell. 'In general, the democracy camp still urges universal suffrage in 2012, and if the central authorities do not allow it, we demand they explain why, and explain how universal suffrage will be implemented in 2017 and 2020,' he said. Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee welcomed the youth group's participation. 'Their intention is still to boost the turnout for the referendum movement. These are young people showing determination and character.' But City University analyst James Sung Lap-kung does not think their participation will help or threaten the referendum cause. 'At the end of the day, these are young faces with no experience and little public exposure. You are not going to come out to vote just because you see that one of these faces is also taking part,' Sung said. Other candidates who submitted their nominations yesterday were David Lee Chun-hung on Hong Kong Island and Chan Kwok-keung in New Territories East.