Legislative Council oath-taking saga

Ousted Hong Kong lawmaker Lau Siu-lai will no longer contest disqualification, but may run in location election

Politician says ball is now in the government’s court over whether she can contest her former Kowloon West seat

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 8:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 8:32am

Ousted lawmaker Lau Siu-lai confirmed on Tuesday that she will no longer contest the High Court’s decision to disqualify her from the Legislative Council for improper oath-taking, paving the way for a by-election for her Kowloon West seat.

But the once pro-self-determination politician did not rule out submitting her name as a candidate in the poll. Hong Kong’s election rules only say the returning officer will decide on a candidate’s eligibility.

Asked about what she thought her chances were, Lau cautiously said: “The ball is not in my court, but in the government’s.”

“When will the election be held? For that you’ve got to ask Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Minister Patrick Nip Tak-kuen.”

She then threw her support behind veteran pan-democrat Lee Cheuk-yan and promoted him as a suitable candidate who could step up if she was barred from contesting.

Lee, of the Labour Party, was ousted from New Territories West in the 2016 Legco election.

Lau said he was a“very experienced lawmaker to improve Hong Kong’s living conditions and fight against the government”.

She added: “I think he could unite us together to promote a more sophisticated and united discussion and good strategy against the government.”

Lee said his party was focused on helping Lau to regain her seat and reunite the democracy camp.

Disqualified Hong Kong lawmaker Lau Siu-lai to drop legal challenge and focus on reclaiming lost seat

“It was quite pathetic to plan for a ‘plan B’ which revealed Hong Kong democracy was threatened by a political ‘red line’,” Lee said via text message. “Democrats need to be well prepared ahead but definitely should not accept a ritual of political censorship from the government.”

The electoral office did not respond to questions on whether the by-election would be held before the end of this year.

In an earlier response, it said it would have to consider “manpower, the availability of polling stations, procurement of resources and appropriate use of public money” before holding another poll in 2018.

Lau was among six pro-democracy lawmakers ousted in 2016 and last year after Beijing’s interpretation of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, that made improper oath-taking punishable by disqualification.

There was a by-election on March 11 for four seats, after pro-independence lawmakers Sixtus Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching lost their appeal to the city’s top court, and democratic lawmakers Nathan Law Kwun Chung and Edward Yiu Chung-yim decided not to appeal.

Only Lau and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung later appealed against the decision and a hearing was originally scheduled for next April. There was, therefore, no by-election for their seats in Kowloon West and New Territories East respectively.

Lau explained she reversed her decision to appeal since even though Leung pushed for an earlier November hearing, it remained unclear whether both appeals would be heard together.

“We think the wait was taking too long,” Lau said. “Taking these into account seems it was more rational that I should not appeal on my case.”

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Lau, however, claimed she was not dropping her challenge solely for the by-election, because Leung would carry on with his appeal. “We will continue to fight in a different battlefield and fight until the end,” she said.

Pro-establishment lawmaker, Starry Lee Wai-king of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said Lau’s disqualification did not mean she would be barred from running in the coming by-election.

Lee, however, cautioned that the returning officer has to consider Lau’s previous speeches and actions, and she would respect their decision.

The pro-establishment camp is also considering one candidate to contest the by-election. Lee would not comment on whether district councillor Leung Scott Leung Man-kwong from the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong was the preferred candidate, but said the district councillor’s experience would be helpful for future elections.