Amid possible infighting, the pro-democracy camp may face even worse odds pending government’s decision on by-election arrangements.
The oath-taking saga
Last November, the High Court disqualified two Youngspiration lawmakers, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang (梁頌恆) and Yau Wai-ching (游蕙禎), for not taking their oaths of office properly during their swearing-in ceremony. As the Court of Final Appeal denied their appeal five days ago, the duo’s LegCo status were officially invalidated and by-elections await.
In addition to the Youngspiration duo, another round of disqualification came last month as the High Court ruled on another four opposition lawmakers, Nathan Law Kwun-chung (羅冠聰), Lau Siu-lai (劉小麗), “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung (梁國雄), and Edward Yiu Chung-yim (姚松炎) over their manner of taking their oaths. The four were too ousted.
The latter four can still file appeals against the High Court. If their appeals are successful, they get to keep their seats. However, of the latter four, only “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung confirmed plans to appeal. As a result, by-elections are expected to be held in near future to refill the other three seats affected by the High Court rulings.
Opposition at risk of losing majority
Five of the six disqualified lawmakers belong to the geographical constituencies, the opposition has lost their majority in the more democratically elected half of LegCo. In order to regain majority, the opposition will have to secure at least four lost seats in the geographical constituencies.
As Leung has been denied appeal, the by-election of his seat in New Territories East will be held first. Various pro-democratic parties, including the Democratic Party and the Neo Democrats, have expressed interest in running in the upcoming by-elections in the constituency. The fight among pan-democrats themselves might result in a winning game for the pro-establishment.
Earlier this month, Nathan Law Kwun-chung was sentenced eights months in prison for “inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly” during the Occupy protests in 2014. With a criminal record, Law will face a five-year ban from public office, meaning that he will not be able to run in the by-election on Hong Kong Island – not while he is in jail anyway. No pan-democrat has declared running as of yet.
In Kowloon West, Lau Siu-lai has not yet decided if she would file an appeal or simply run in the by-election following the High Court ruling. Meanwhile, former Kowloon West legislator and famous pro-democracy radio host Wong Yuk-man (黃毓民) claimed last November that he would not stand in any of the by-elections. Meanwhile, some district councilors of Democratic Party and Civic Party seem to be running.
The opposition risks losing the majority for the rest of the legislative term if all the races are held simultaneously, since the proportional representation system would allocate the second seat of each of the two constituencies with two vacant seats, that are New Territories East and Kowloon West, to the second most voted line-up, which is likely to be a pro-establishment line-up, meaning that the opposition might only secure three seats in total. It is therefore unsurprising that the pan-democrats are pressing the government to hold the races separately on different dates, so to ensure a higher chance of winning back all five lost seats.
Opposition might lose architectural seat
The functional constituencies continue to be dominated by the pro-establishment camp. As Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape lawmaker Edward Yiu Chung-yim decided not to file an appeal against the High Court’s decision to disqualify him, a by-election for his constituency will be held in near future. Yiu claimed that he will run in the by-election against the pro-establishment.
As the only opposition candidate among the three candidates in the 2016 election, Yiu won by a narrow margin of 482 votes against Tony Tse Wai-Chuen (謝偉銓) who sought a second term in office. As a traditionally pro-establishment constituency, the camp might regain the seat if it manages avoid infighting among two or more candidates.
Yesterday, the Youngspiration pair declared they would not contest the upcoming by-elections as they will not be able to propose, let alone to deliver, a pro-independence platform through the LegCo under current circumstances.
Pro-independence icon Edward Leung Tin-kei (梁天琦), who had his bid rejected by the New Territories East Returning Officer in last September’s LegCo elections, also said he would not stand in the upcoming by-elections. He however called for solidarity among the opposition, suggesting that pro-democrats and localists should unite. No localist has indicated an interest in running so far.