Hong Kong Democratic Party leader Emily Lau decides not to seek re-election in 2016
The long-time lawmaker wants new faces to run in the city’s post-Occupy Central era, and her deputy announces he won’t seek a legislative ‘super seat’
The Democratic Party is facing the end of an era as its leader Emily Lau Wai-hing will not seek re-election this year, leaving the legislature she has served since 1991.
Saying she would share her thoughts at a press conference today, Lau’s decision came after the district council elections in November – the first citywide polls since the pro-democracy Occupy movement – during which voters preferred young new faces over veterans.
The shake-up announced on New Year’s Eve also revealed that two rising stars of the party, Southern district councillors Lo Kin-hei and Henry Chai Man-hon, have both given up contesting the Legislative Council elections, placing the prospect of the city’s biggest pro-democracy force in question.
Lo, the Democrats’ vice-chairman who won re-election last month by a wide margin, was tipped to succeed outgoing veteran lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan in contesting the so-called “super seat”, a poll involving some 3.2 million voters not eligible to vote in a functional constituency.
But the 31-year-old said he did not wish at this time to go further as he sought to contemplate his future.
“I have been making a dash for 10 years [in the political arena] and it is time for me to halt and reflect upon my life,” said Lo, adding that he wanted to take a chance to learn something new before determining if politics would be his lifelong career.
Instead, incumbent James To Kun-sun, young district councillors Ted Hui Chi-fung and Roy Kwong Chun-yu, a romance novelist, were eyeing the two entry tickets for the super seats.
Competition emerged as the strongest in the New Territories East and West. In the former constituency where Lau won for decades, the party’s chief executive officer Lam Cheuk-ting, Lau’s protege Au Chun-wah and Joanne Leung Wing-yan, one of the city’s most outspoken transgender woman who joined the party recently, have stated their interest in running.
In New Territories West, three party members – Kwong, Josephine Chan Shu-ying and Andrew Wan Siu-kin – were fighting for the entry tickets to represent the party there. The party has earlier decided to field at most two lists of candidates in the two constituencies, though scholars had suggested two would be a risky move.
Meanwhile, Winfield Chong Wing-fai and Hui aspired to run in Hong Kong Island after Chai’s withdrawal, whereas Helena Wong Pik-wan, an incumbent representing Kowloon West who brought to light this year’s lead-in-water scandal at public housing estates, would face a challenge from her party colleague Ramon Yuen Hoi-man.
Incumbent lawmaker Wu Chi-wai was the party’s only aspirant in Kowloon East.
Political scientist Ma Ngok of Chinese University said Lau’s departure would bring new hope to the party. “Lau was unlikely to attract a new voter base in the coming election if not lose the party’s old supporters,” he said.
Veteran Democrat Cheung Man-kwong admitted he was disappointed at the decision of Lo and Chai, but said the list has also showed the determination of the party to pass the torch.
The Democratic Party would finalise its roster of candidates in April.