By-elections to replace disqualified legislators may take six months to prepare, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says
But chief executive says she believes polls will be held without delay and officials will provide electoral authority with ‘necessary support’
It could take six months to prepare for Hong Kong’s next major voting exercise, by-elections to fill four Legislative Council seats vacated by opposition lawmakers who were disqualified over improper oaths of office, the city’s leader said on Tuesday.
Heading into the weekly meeting of the Executive Council, her team of policy advisers, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor revealed that the Electoral Affairs Commission would meet this week to discuss details and would make a public announcement “as soon as possible”.
Lam was speaking a day after “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai filed appeals in a bid to overturn a court decision that removed them from their Legco seats. Edward Yiu Chung-yim and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, also disqualified, decided not to appeal.
Their appeal decisions came soon after the city’s top court upheld the rulings of two lower courts on a separate but similar unseating of two pro-independence lawmakers. The judges in that case found that Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching had wilfully and manifestly declined to take their oaths last October.
The six lawmakers were disqualified in legal battles launched by Hong Kong’s previous government, led by former chief executive Leung Chun-ying.
Lam said on Tuesday by-elections would be held without delay.
“I hope that the vacancies will be filled soon, because the Legislative Council is a place to scrutinise various matters, and to represent residents in monitoring the government. So if there are 70 seats altogether, we hope that the vacancies can be filled so as to give full play to its efficiency.”
Hong Kong is divided into five geographical constituencies in Legco, and the by-elections would take place in three of those, as well as in the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency, which Yiu represented.
Lam said: “Since it involves 2.1 million voters, about 400 polling stations, and the recruitment and training of about 14,000 staff, we might need six months to prepare. But the exact timing will be decided by the Electoral Affairs Commission.”
She said the government would provide the “necessary support” to the commission in terms of resources and manpower.
Announcing his plan last Friday, Leung Kwok-hung and other opposition pan-democrat politicians admitted that the appeal bids were in part aimed at helping their camp win all six seats vacated by disqualified lawmakers.
If all six are contested in by-elections held at the same time, including two in New Territories East and two in Kowloon West, the bloc will almost certainly lose one in each of those constituencies because of the proportional representation voting system.
Meanwhile, Baggio Leung and Yau were supposed to return a total of HK$1.86 million worth of salaries and expenses owed to Legco from their time as lawmakers-elect, but failed to do so by a Monday deadline.
In an email sent to the Legco secretariat, Leung argued it was unreasonable to include all their salaries and money spent on equipment for their offices.
But a spokesman for the secretariat said the Legco commission would take the pair to court if they failed to pay.