Major shift of strategy on the cards for Hong Kong pro-democracy camp after veteran drops out of by-election
Frederick Fung steps down from contesting the Kowloon West constituency, saying he hopes move will mend rift and unite members
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp is considering a major shift in strategy for the coming Legislative Council by-elections after the withdrawal of second-choice candidate and veteran Frederick Fung Kin-kee.
Fung, who was a backup for the Kowloon West constituency, announced his decision on Monday amid apparent pressure from inside his camp. Some members feared his low popularity meant he might lose if he had to run in place of favourite Edward Yiu Chung-yim in the March polls.
Yiu’s eligibility for the race is unclear, as he was among six pan-democrats ousted from Legco last year for improper oaths of office. Their disqualification came after the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the country’s top legislative body, interpreted the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, in a controversial move.
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There has been concern that Yiu’s comeback bid in the by-elections could be rejected by the government on the basis of the standing committee’s ruling being applied to the entire term of the current legislature.
Fung, of the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood, said he hoped that stepping down would mend internal rifts so the pro-democracy camp could unite for the by-election.
Last week, Power for Democracy, which is coordinating efforts within the camp for the polls, organised a primary to choose candidates. The group was expected to call a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the camp’s next move.
Group convenor Andrew Chiu Ka-yin said in a statement: “We shall invite all stakeholders who had previously signed agreements [on the mechanism of the primary elections] to the meeting. We will also hold talks based on the principles of the current agreements, and consider the views of the public and various political parties.”
Chiu could not be reached for further comment.
Some political observers have warned that the camp’s move could backfire.
“It would let down some of their supporters,” Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said.
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“It is too obvious that Fung was forced to quit because of pressure from within the camp. One of the major selling points of the pro-democracy camp is that they are politicians of principle and they respect procedural justice. But what they are doing now does not seem to show such qualities.”
According to earlier agreements, the camp would adopt a “Plan B” by having the candidate with the second-highest number of votes in the primary stand for the by-election if Yiu was barred.
But members were split on whether Fung, who came in second for the Kowloon West constituency, was a good choice.
“I am not suggesting that Edward Yiu will definitely be disqualified again, or that I will lose if I replace him to run in March. But, if my quitting can help end the internal rift in the camp and we can unite, then I will have no reason not to do so.”
Democrat Ramon Yuen Hoi-man is the next in line – according to the agreement – having attained the third-highest number of primary votes in the constituency.
Yuen said he would leave it to his party’s leadership to decide on his candidacy when they meet among themselves on Thursday.
The by-elections, to be held on March 11, are to fill four of the six seats in the legislature left vacant by the six ousted lawmakers. Two of them, Lau Siu-lai and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, have appealed against the court rulings.