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Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Hong Kong political heavyweights back down from district council by-election

Commentator believes move is designed to boost allies’ chances of winning

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 October, 2017, 7:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 5:00pm

Heavyweights from both the pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps on Thursday pulled out of a district council by-election next month, in a bid that a commentator believes will boost their political allies’ chances of winning in the poll.

The Central and Western District Council by-election, to be held on November 26, will be the two political blocs’ face-off ahead of the Legislative Council’s by-election in March next year to fill four seats vacated by pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified by the court over their improper oath-taking.

The by-election next month is to fill seats vacated by two pro-establishment district councillors, Kathy Siu Ka-yi (Tung Wah constituency) of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and Joseph Chan Ho-lim (The Peak constituency) of the Liberal Party, who resigned to join the government.

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In The Peak constituency, New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee announced on Thursday that she had decided not challenge Liberal Party candidate Jeremy Young Chit-on, 41, because she did not have the time.

“As a long term Peak constituency resident, I am really keenly interested in running … but the timing does not work well for me,” Ip said, adding that she needed to give priority to her work in the executive and legislative councils.

Ip believed her decision will boost Young’s chances.

Edward Chin Chi-kin, founder of pro-democracy concern group 2047 HK Monitor, said he will sign up to challenge Young by Monday as some residents in the constituency were unhappy that Joseph Chan was “not approachable enough”.

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Young said: “I will ask for Mrs Ip’s advice and vote because she lives in the area.”

Political analysts have long seen The Peak as a stronghold for the business-friendly liberals. Former party chairman James Tien Pei-chun held the seat from 1999 to 2003. Joseph Chan was first elected in 2011, and was re-elected two years ago by defeating 2047 HK Monitor’s Sherman Chan Shu-moon with a wide margin.

In the Tung Wah constituency, a middle-class community in Sheung Wan, Democratic Party member Bonnie Ng Hoi-yan has signed up for the race. Edward Yiu Chung-yim, one of the four lawmakers disqualified in July, and conservation activist Katty Law Ngar-ning decided not to run on Thursday, days after San Wui Commercial Society School principal Lui Kam-keung signed up last Saturday.

“We don’t want the camp to lose the election because of an internal rivalry,” Yiu said.

Lui claimed to be an independent candidate, but the pan-democrats believe that he is backed by the pro-establishment camp. Lui could not be reached for comment.

With Ip pulling out, Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung believes Young now has the advantage in The Peak. “I am quite surprised about Mrs Ip’s decision,” he said.

On the race in Tung Wah, Choy said Ng would be have an advantage if voters were so disappointed about Siu’s departure that they shifted to support Ng.

After the two seats were vacated, the district council currently has nine members from the pro-establishment camp, and four from the Democratic Party.