Legislative Council oath-taking saga

Six pan-dems enter primary race to contest two seats in Hong Kong Legco by-election

The primary race is an attempt at unity for the city’s opposition camp, as it seeks to put its best candidates forward for the March 11 by-election and reclaim its lost veto power at Legco

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 December, 2017, 7:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 4:20pm

Six pan-democrats are jostling to represent Hong Kong’s pro-democracy bloc and contest two of the four legislative seats up for grabs in the March 11 by-election.

Power for Democracy, which does electoral coordination for the pro-democracy political parties, said on Tuesday that it would organise a primary election by mid-January, with the winners going on to the final contest for the seats in Kowloon West and New Territories East.

The Post understands that the pro-democracy camp is likely to endorse Demosisto’s Agnes Chow Ting and pro-democracy town planner Camille Lam Tsz-kwan to contest the other two seats – representing Hong Kong Island and the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency respectively.

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The city’s opposition camp has a lot at stake in the by-election, given that its veto power in the Legislative Council was eroded after a court stripped six pan-democrat lawmakers of their seats, finding they did not take their oaths of office properly after the Legco elections in September last year.

Political commentators said the outcome of the primary election, as well as the political climate, would determine the opposition’s chances on March 11, even though they did well in those seats at last year’s poll.

It it is not known if the pro-independence camp – whose supporters overlap slightly with those of the pan-democrats – intend to participate in the by-election.

Political observers had previously said the odds were in the pan-democrats’ favour, given that localists and pro-independence activists had not given any indication of their interest in the by-election.

But pan-democrats would need to overcome internal divisions and coordinate their strategies to put forth the strongest candidates, they said.

The by-election is to fill the seats formerly held by Demosisto’s Nathan Law Kwun-chung in Hong Kong Island, Youngspiration’s Yau Wai-ching in Kowloon West, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang in New Territories East, and academic Edward Yiu Chung-yim in the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency.

Two other ousted lawmakers, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai, are appealing against the court decision, so a by-election for their seats, if any, would only take place further down the line.

Lawmakers for geographical constituencies are directly elected by Hongkongers, while those for functional constituencies are voted in by a limited electorate drawn from the industries the specific constituency represents.

On March 11, 2.1 million voters will be eligible to cast their ballot for the three geographical seats while 7,600 voters will do so for the functional constituency seat.

At Tuesday’s press conference to announce the primary election, three candidates – Yiu, veteran ex-lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee, and Democratic Party district councillor Ramon Yuen Hoi-man – said they would compete to represent Kowloon West in the by-election.

Ex-lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai, former head of Chinese University’s student union Tommy Cheung Sau-yin, and Labour Party underdog Steven Kwok Wing-kin threw their hat in the ring for the ticket to contest the New Territories East seat.

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Ken Tsang Kin-chiu, an activist who allegedly poured liquid on police officers during the Occupy protests, chose to sit out of the Kowloon West race and endorsed Yiu.

Yiu, who is currently not affiliated with a political party, said: “I’m the only disqualified lawmaker to rejoin the election. It’s time for Hongkongers to come together to say no to what the government is doing to us.”

The pro-democracy camp is expected to face opponents who are ex-legislators and rising stars in their respective constituencies.

Pan-dem problem is disunity, not poll rules

Judy Chan Ka-pui of the New People’s Party as well as Vincent Cheng Wing-shun and Bill Tang Ka-piu of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong are tipped to contest the Hong Kong Island, Kowloon West and New Territories East seats respectively. Non-affiliated former lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen is expected to make a comeback in the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency.

Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok said he believed that the better-known candidates, Yiu and Chow, were more likely to win the primary race and the by-election.

“It is more uncertain in New Territories East, because it will be difficult for any of the three candidates to attract most of the votes of the pro-democracy voters,” Ma explained. “If Tang wins there in March, the balance of power in Legco would still be in favour of the pro-establishment camp.”

Pan-democrat voter share slips in Hong Kong elections since 1997

The ouster of the lawmakers cut the number of geographical seats held by pan-democrats to 14 from 19, compared with the 16 seats held by their pro-establishment rivals.

There are 35 geographical seats, and the pro-democracy group used to be able to veto motions, bills and amendments to government bills proposed by fellow lawmakers, as these require majority support from lawmakers in both the geographical and functional constituency seats.

However, the passing of government bills and motions requires a simple majority from the 70 legislators, or in some cases, agreement from two-thirds of the legislature.