Despite landslide primary win, Hong Kong pro-democracy candidate’s next run up in the air over his last Legco oath
Constitutional affairs chief non-committal on Edward Yiu’s eligibility for March contest, prompting pan-democrats to hatch backup plan
A Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker disqualified over the oath-taking saga has won a landslide victory in the camp’s primary, but his chance of regaining a seat remains up in the air with officials non-committal on whether he could pass the allegiance test required for the upcoming by-elections.
Academic Edward Yiu Chung-yim, slated to run in the March contest for the Kowloon West constituency, said the primary’s better-than-expected turnout of more than 26,000 voters sent a clear signal to the government that Hongkongers did not back its bid last year to unseat popularly returned lawmakers.
“The people of Hong Kong support democracy and they would like to use their votes to tell the world that indeed they do not agree with the decisions by Beijing and Hong Kong ... to take away the seats of Legislative Councillors,” Yiu said on Monday, after beating his rivals Democrat Ramon Yuen Hoi-man and veteran politician Frederick Fung Kin-kee in the primary.
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Six Legco seats, including Yiu’s, were vacated last year after a local court ruled in favour of the government’s legal bid to unseat the lawmakers for improper oaths of office.
Four of the six seats are to be filled through the March 11 by-elections, while the fate of the remaining two is to be determined later on account of ongoing appeals.
But uncertainties loomed for Yiu’s bid as the government refused to offer a firm answer on whether the once disqualified lawmaker could secure a ticket to the race.
“I would not comment on individual cases, but the returning officer will exercise his or her power in accordance with the relevant legislation when he or she receives the nomination,” constitutional affairs chief Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said.
It was understood the camp would prepare a “Plan B” by having another candidate sign up for the race if Yiu’s candidacy is not officially confirmed within a week. But the camp was split on whether Fung, who finished second in the primary, would be the choice.
Meanwhile, the comeback hopes of NeoDemocrat Gary Fan Kwok-wai, who failed to secure a second term in the 2016 elections, continue after he won the primary in New Territories East by defeating the Labour Party’s Steven Kwok Wing-kin and young activist Tommy Cheung Sau-yin.
Fan, who failed to garner the support of the major pan-democratic parties in the run-up to the primary, expressed confidence the camp would abide by the latest results and support him.
Former Occupy activist Agnes Chow Ting is set to run against Judy Chan Ka-pui of the New People’s Party for the Hong Kong Island seat vacated by Demosisto party colleague Nathan Law Kwun-chung.
Chinese University political scientist Dr Ma Ngok believed Yiu and Chow had a high chance of winning, yet he was pessimistic about Fan’s bid in New Territories East. Although the constituency is a stronghold for pan-democrats, Ma noted voters there were split widely across the political spectrum.
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“The localists and radical pan-democrats would likely boycott the poll while supporters of the Civic Party and Democratic Party might not vote for him,” Ma said, adding that NeoDemocrats had a comparatively small number of district councillors in the city.
On the pro-establishment side, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong has endorsed two district councillors – Bill Tang Ka-piu and Vincent Cheng Wing-shun – to run in New Territories East and Kowloon West respectively.
Tang conceded it would be difficult running against the pan-democrats, but argued he was more capable in uniting people than Fan.
Separately, Southern district councillor Paul Zimmerman is to run for the architectural sector seat previously held by Yiu, and he is expected to be challenged by former lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen.