Disqualified Hong Kong lawmaker Lau Siu-lai to drop legal challenge and focus on reclaiming lost seat
Lau said to be considering Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan as backup candidate, fearing she may be prevented from running again for Legislative Council seat
Ousted lawmaker Lau Siu-lai is to drop a legal challenge against her disqualification from Hong Kong’s legislature and focus on regaining her seat, two sources close to her have said.
But with a risk of Lau being barred from running again, veteran pan-democrat and ex-lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan will be asked to serve as her backup candidate, the Post has learned.
Lau was one of six lawmakers removed from the Legislative Council for improperly taking their oaths in October 2016. The decision to end her legal fight would trigger another by-election in Kowloon West, the site of a symbolic loss for the democratic camp in March when another of the six, Edward Yiu Chung-yim, was defeated by the pro-establishment camp’s Vincent Cheng Wing-shun.
The electoral office would not confirm whether the latest by-election would be held before the end of the year.
Lau spent eight minutes delivering her Legco oath, pausing for five to seven seconds between every Chinese word. She was unseated in July last year in a High Court ruling, alongside three other democratic lawmakers, Yiu, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung.
Lau and Leung appealed against the decision eight months ago. Originally scheduled for April next year, the appeal had been brought forward to November.
“The time schedule is very unfavourable,” Lau said. “We’ve tried to speed up the judicial process. If it drags on, we might have to wait before any by-election takes place.”
Lau noted that to trigger a by-election, the court would have to decide on her appeal at least a year before the end of this Legislative Council term in late 2020.
A source said Leung would carry on with his appeal and challenge the legal principle in the disqualification of lawmakers.
The Registration and Electoral Office said it would keep track of judicial proceedings and arrange a by-election where necessary and practical. It would have to consider “manpower, availability of polling stations, procurement of resources and appropriate use of public money” before holding a poll in 2018, it said.
During her campaign in 2016, Lau was known as a member of the “pro-self-determination” camp and advocated the right of voters to determine Hong Kong’s future. But she tempered this stance and focused on poverty issues, once elected.
As a precaution in case she is disqualified, one source with direct knowledge of the discussions said Lau would team up with the Labour Party’s Lee.
“It is still under discussion and there’s nothing I can say for now,” Lee said. “We definitely oppose any disqualification, and stand by Siu-lai.”
Lee, who was a lawmaker for 20 years, conceded he had previously said he would not again contest a major election after losing a Legco election in September 2016.
Lau also said she would not comment.
On the pro-establishment side, three district councillors were mulling a shot at the forthcoming by-election. But they also noted the importance of the camp staying united and finding a single candidate.
The pro-government bloc won in the March by-election, but Dominic Lee Tsz-king of the Liberal Party said he expected a tougher run from the democrats next time around and he looked forward to battling district council colleague and friend Scott Leung Man-kwong from the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong.
Scott Leung said his party was keen and prepared for any election, but would defer in negotiations over candidates to party leaders. He added however that Cheng, from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, had performed relatively poorly in middle-class districts – an area for the pro-business party to work on.
Former Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing is the most experienced of the three potential candidates. Asked about his interest in running in the by-election, Wong said he felt “duty-bound” yet would “obey the higher calling”. He did not elaborate.