My Take

No more excuses for delaying Legco by-elections

Government must move swiftly to fill the Legislative Council seats vacated by disqualified lawmakers to avoid allegations that political shenanigans are at play

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 1:35am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 1:35am

Now that the Court of Final Appeal has rejected two disqualified pro-independence legislators’ bid to be reinstated, the government must quickly launch by-elections to fill their seats.

The government’s argument of not having set a by-election date so far has been that legal proceedings were ongoing. But Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching have now lost their final legal bid; Legislative Council and election officials must proceed expeditiously.

The law, past practices and natural justice all demand it. The Legislative Council Ordinance makes it clear that seats should be filled quickly once they are declared vacant.

Any further delay to Hong Kong by-elections ‘risks favouring pro-Beijing camp’, government warned

Of the six by-elections held after the 1997 handover, none was run more than four months after a seat was vacated. Yet, Leung and Yau were kicked out nine months ago. Meanwhile, we have had four more empty seats in Legco since last month – all stemming from their past occupants being disqualified over improper oath-taking.

The reason for the confusion is that Secretary of Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen had said by-elections to fill the six Legco seats would be held “after all legal procedures were settled”. He has yet to clarify whether that is still the case.

That position is clearly not tenable if, as Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said, her government would “act according to the law”. Who knows how long the legal proceedings, if any, for the other four disqualified lawmakers – Lau Siu-lai, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Edward Yiu Chung-yim – will last? Leung has announced he will appeal, but we don’t know if or when the rest will proceed.

Ousted Hong Kong lawmakers Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching lose final bid to regain seats

Cost-saving has been suggested as the reason for preferring to fill all six seats in one go. More Machiavellian has been the suggestion that the government and pro-establishment camp want to fill Yau and Lau’s seats together in Kowloon West; and Baggio Leung and Long Hair’s together in New Territories East. The idea is that one seat in each of the two geographic constituencies is likely to be lost to a government-friendly candidate – hence the government’s delay.

But Lam has said she doesn’t want to play tricks or make any “political manoeuvrings”. She has enough political controversies on her plate already and doesn’t need more.

Her government should simply do the right thing – start launching by-elections as soon as practicable as and when disqualified lawmakers give up their legal bids.