Candidates make final bid for votes as Kowloon West by-election goes down to the wire
- Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan paints election as battle between democracy and the government
- But rival Chan Hoi-yan describes herself as the pragmatic and rational choice
Candidates from across Hong Kong’s political divide have ramped up their campaigning ahead of Sunday’s by-election showdown, making final appeals for support from half a million voters in Kowloon West.
Labour Party stalwart Lee Cheuk-yan, who is being endorsed by the pan-democratic camp, urged voters to make their voices heard, while Chan Hoi-yan of the pro-establishment camp posted a video appealing to voters.
After the Legislative Council election in 2016, a total of six pro-democracy lawmakers were ousted for improper oath-taking. By-elections were held in March this year to fill four of the seats, as two legislators – Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai – decided to appeal.
Lau dropped her appeal in May, triggering this by-election in Kowloon West, but has been barred from running after calling for self-determination in the city.
“Now we critically appeal for all families and friends to unify and vote for me,” Lee said. “This is a battle between democracy and the government. Please stay united and we shall win.”
The 61-year-old made an urgent plea to secure the backing of pan-democrats in Whampoa, a large private housing estate.
Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, former Civic Party chairman, said while residents may doubt the importance of their vote, every battle mattered.
“If we win back the seat, the little influence of the pro-democracy camp in the Legco would be retained,” she said. “It is a real critical seat.”
Eu was referring to the power of veto in the Legislative Council, in which half of 70 seats represent geographical constituencies and the other half represent professional sectors in Hong Kong.
The pro-establishment camp now dominates both sectors, with 17 against 16 in the geographical constituencies.
Lau warned that only with the veto power, could democrats stop their rivals from further changing the Legco rule book and curbing freedoms in chambers.
Student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung, of Demosisto, called for support among younger voters who may be suffering from political fatigue since the Occupy protests in 2014
“Our votes may not be able to twist the situation, but could delay Beijing’s purge on our young generation,” Wong said.
Meanwhile, on Friday, Chan made her appeal for support through videos online.
“According to different polls, Chan Hoi-yan is in a very, very critical circumstances,” she said. “We don’t want another lawmaker who opposes for the sake of opposing. The Legco needs a pragmatic and rational lawmaker.”
She pledged to put livelihood issues first and political disputes aside.
According to her Facebook posts, she had former Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang Wai-hung, former ministers Lai Tung-kwok and Chan Ka-keung, and former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing campaigning for her in the streets.
Basic Law Committee vice-chairman Maria Tam Wai-chu was spotted helping out in Olympic City, another large private housing estate.
All eyes are on whether the pan-democrats can retain the seat and the important veto power in Legco, in what is turning into a neck-and-neck battle. They failed once in the March elections, with their champion Edward Yiu Chung-yim losing to Vincent Cheng Wing-shun, who was the first pro-Beijing candidate to defeat a pro-democracy opponent in an open by-election.
One of the key factors will be how Frederick Fung Kin-kee, a former ally of the pro-democracy camp, performs and splits the vote from the pro-democracy bloc.
Observers said Chan was an unknown factor in the race. A late runner compared to Cheng, she has a journalistic background and no party affiliation, making her appeal difficult to judge.
IT worker Ng Dick-hay, and independent Judy Tzeng Li-wen, are also running for the post.
Additional reporting by Alvin Lum