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Legislative Council by-election 2018

Pro-Beijing candidate Bill Tang spent HK$2.24 million on failed Legislative Council by-election campaign – with most being spent on adverts and meals for assistants

Paperwork disclosed to public also shows former labour sector lawmaker Bill Tang Ka-piu dished out more than HK$33,000 on meals for 1,500 assistants

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 8:32am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 3:57pm

Pro-Beijing candidate Bill Tang Ka-piu spent HK$2.24 million (US$285,000) in his failed Legislative Council by-election in March, with more than HK$2 million spent on advertisements and dishing out meals to his 1,500 election assistants.

His total was 40 per cent higher than that of Holden Chow Ho-ding, who spent HK$1.61 million back in 2016 Legco by-election in the same constituency of New Territories East. At the time, eventual winner Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu of the Civic Party lavished HK$2.5 million on his campaign. 

The latest expenditure came to light when the Registration and Electoral Office released the candidates’ declarations of expenses for public scrutiny.

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Tang, a former Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker representing the labour sector, was the first of the major candidates to have his declaration disclosed.

The expenses for NeoDemocrat Gary Fan Kwok-wai, who beat Tang by a margin of about 30,000 votes, have yet to be made public.

The March by-election was held to fill four of six seats vacated by opposition lawmakers disqualified for their improper oath-taking

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Three geographical seats in New Territories East, Kowloon West and Hong Kong Island, and one functional seat in the architectural and surveying constituency were up for grabs.

Despite winning two of the four seats, the pro-democracy camp was left disappointed, as polling data suggested its voting share had shrank.

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Of Tang’s more than HK$2.24 million expenses, only HK$48,000 was identified as spent on hiring two assistants. Yet there were signs his campaign team was already well-stocked.

Tang declared that on March 11, election day, HK$24,000 was spent delivering food and beverages for 1,025 election assistants. During the entire campaign period, another HK$9,000 was allocated for a total of 1,523 assistants for their meals. Bottled water for the team had cost HK$5,270.

Of the HK$2 million spent on advertising, HK$295,000 went towards advertisements on four tunnels – Tate’s Cairn, Shing Mun, Tseung Kwan O and Lion Rock – and HK$150,000 on plastering 25 minibuses.

The 38-year-old district councillor also spent over HK$72,000 on new-media ads, mostly on Facebook. And the campaign was hit with an unexpected expense of HK$7,500 due to a government penalty, as his street banners and flags were found to have violated certain regulations. 

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Tang ended up bagging 152,904 votes in the by-election, meaning he spent about HK$14.70 per vote.

Under election rules, his campaign team could secure as financial help HK$1.5 million— half of the election expense limits—with the balance of expenses pocketed by the Federation of Trade Unions. Last year, Tang joined the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

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Meanwhile, Tony Tse Wai-chuen who won the functional constituency by-election in March, spent HK$371,245 on his campaign, according to his declarations. 

He used HK$60,000 for PR consultation and promotion video scriptwriting. Another HK$29,000 went towards his website as well as a social media consultancy fee.