Hong Kong pro-establishment candidate Chan Hoi-yan wins Kowloon West by-election
- Pan-democrats will now be outnumbered 18 to 16 in the geographical consistency
- Rival candidate Lee Cheuk-yan’s campaign had been affected by vote-splitting, critics said
The Hong Kong opposition camp’s hopes of regaining veto power in the legislature were dashed on Monday, as pro-establishment candidate Chan Hoi-yan took the remaining seat in the Kowloon West constituency by a sizeable margin in Sunday’s by-election.
Chan took 106,457 votes – 13,410 more than her main rival, Labour Party stalwart Lee Cheuk-yan, who ran at the behest of ousted lawmaker Lau Siu-lai.
Critics said Lee’s campaign had suffered from vote splitting with another candidate, Frederick Fung Kin-kee, a former ally of the pan-democrats. Fung got 12,509 votes.
Two other candidates – IT worker Ng Dick-hay and non-affiliated Judy Tzeng Li-wan, took 1,650 and 1,307 votes respectively.
More than 216,000 voters, or 44.4 per cent of the 487,000 registered, voted before polling stations closed at 10.30pm on Sunday.
When Fung arrived at the media centre at Tiu Keng Leng Sports Centre at 1.30am on Monday, he was booed by a group of pro-democracy camp supporters in the public area.
Lee arrived at 3am and was greeted by a pool of cheering supporters.
“Hongkongers will not be defeated!” Lee’s supporters chanted.
He apologised to his supporters for losing the election and promised to reflect on his campaign to find out “what vision for Hong Kong the people who didn’t vote for me have in their minds”.
Lee declined to comment on the impact of Fung in splitting votes for the pan-democratic camp. “I think people can draw some conclusions from the statistics,” Lee said.
He named a series of external factors affecting his chances – ranging from what he called smears, to Hongkongers’ political apathy – but he did not identify any major flaw in himself and his campaign team.
“To find the internal factors, we will have to sit down and talk first,” Lee said.
Lee urged the Hong Kong people not to give up despite the disappointment brought by his failure.
“We have many tough battles ahead, including the legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law, the Lantau Tomorrow initiative that may risk draining the city’s financial reserve, and a string of welfare issues including elderly care, labour protection, education and medical services,” Lee said.
“All these battles require Hongkongers to care more about our home … There is still hope and a future for the city if we can fight in solidarity.”
Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, stipulates that the government must bring in anti-sedition laws, while the administration’s Lantau Tomorrow Vision is a massive and controversial housing plan involving land reclamation around Lantau Island.
Chan insisted Fung did not contribute to her victory, saying instead she won because her manifesto was well received by the voters.
“I think my victory reflected that the voters wish for less quarrelling and confrontation and a higher priority for their well-being,” Chan said.
Claiming to be non-partisan, Chan said she was glad that her political beliefs were “highly consistent with that of the pro-establishment bloc”. “I am also very happy to be accepted as a member of the bloc,” Chan said.
She declined to say if she would seek re-election in 2020. “I had very little time to prepare for the by-election. I haven’t got time to think about the next election,” she said.
After losing Sunday’s by-election, the pan-democrats will be outnumbered 18 to 16 in Legco’s geographical constituencies.
This means they will not be able to stop further changes to the legislature’s rule book, which require majority support in both the geographical and functional constituencies.
Further changes could include fines and longer time-outs for lawmakers kicked out of a meeting.
Power for Democracy convenor Andrew Chiu Ka-yin said Fung had became Beijing’s “vote-splitting tool”.
“There is clearly vote splitting,” Chiu said.
“During the election forum Fung kept attacking the pan-democrats, spending even more time than attacking Chan.”
Chiu also noted some young voters were dissatisfied with the pan-democrats’ performance.
“We need to have a better understanding of young voters and listen to their views,” he said.
Speaking after the results were announced, Fung rejected the notion that he split votes with Lee.
“[No one] can split the vote, the vote is from the voter,” Fung said, noting that even their combined number of votes was less than Chan’s.
Fung conceded he had only a small number of votes, but said the poll showed some voters were tired of local politics being dominated by the two camps.
He did not rule out joining future elections.
“I will consider and use any method that will bring progress to the democratic movement, including joining elections,” Fung said.
Lau’s ejection from the Legislative Council for improper oath taking last year had triggered Sunday’s by-election.
After the Legco elections in 2016, six pro-democracy lawmakers were ousted for improper oath-taking. By-elections were held in March to fill four of the seats, as two legislators – Leung Kwok-hung and Lau – decided to appeal.
Lau dropped her appeal in May. She attempted a comeback bid but was barred from running in Sunday’s poll on the grounds she had called for the city’s self-determination.
Lee then threw his hat into the ring to take her place.