Method to the by-election vindictiveness

With Lau Siu-lai barred from running in the Kowloon West by-election, the opposition has been sending a loud message to sympathetic voters to support Lee Cheuk-yan over Frederick Fung Kin-kee

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 October, 2018, 9:04pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 October, 2018, 10:19pm

As expected, Lau Siu-lai has been barred from running in the upcoming by-election for a Legislative Council seat in Kowloon West. So, it’s on to the much-advertised Plan B, which is for her Labour Party mate and former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan to enter the race next month.

No harm is done to the opposition. In fact, its chances of winning back the seat have increased. Her comrades are now rousing public anger over the alleged government repression, as her latest disqualification has been called a “political rape”. In addition to Lee’s own political base, he will probably get the votes from Lau’s supporters, too.

The pro-government bloc is operating on a Plan B of sorts, too. Having failed to convince former government health chief Ko Wing-man – consistently the most popular minister of the highly unpopular Leung Chun-ying administration – to run as a candidate, his political assistant, Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan, will be running in his place. It’s not quite the same thing, though. Ko may have endorsed his former assistant, but his old popularity isn’t going to rub off on her. Ostensibly an independent candidate, she is part of the establishment.

Ousted pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmaker Lau Siu-lai barred from by-election

Meanwhile, though widely seen as a has-been, as a veteran unionist and former lawmaker, the more experienced Lee would likely be more proactive and effective in Legco than Lau – or Chan. As a purely practical matter of political calculations, Lau’s disqualification actually works better for the opposition.

It’s not all plain sailing, though. The main problem for the opposition is not the government this time, but a former comrade. Frederick Fung Kin-kee, another political has-been and former legislator, is also hoping to make a comeback. Between Fung and Lee, there is not much difference. As pan-democrats, both have long focused on labour and livelihood issues for their grass-roots constituencies. Both are politically moderate and consider themselves patriotic Chinese who reject Hong Kong independence but believe in democracy for China.

But the opposition has endorsed Lee. Fung has refused to play ball and insisted on running as a separate candidate. He could steal Lee’s votes. That has made him persona non grata among his former comrades. The opposition has been virtually united in a concerted vicious attack against him. There is, however, method in the vindictiveness. They are sending a loud message to sympathetic voters not to waste time on Fung, but to support Lee.