Pro-Beijing lawmakers have said they have yet to makes plans for potential by-elections triggered by a court ruling which ousted two localist politicians from the legislature.

The government won its bid on Tuesday to eject Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung Chung-hang from the legislature. The pro-independence legislators used words during their swearing-in session that some deemed an insult to Chinese people, sparking the recent oath-taking controversy and a legal challenge.

Should the government announce that their seats are vacant in the gazette – the official record – then by-elections in the Kowloon West and New Territories East constituencies will need to be conducted within four to six months.

Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung outside the High Court. Photo: Chantal Yuen.

Chris Ip Ngo-tung, of the largest pro-Beijing party the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), reportedly may join the by-election race in Kowloon West. He ran in second place in the party’s list in the constituency after lawmaker Ann Chiang Lai-wan this September. Chiang was elected with 52,541 votes, the highest in the district. Ip is the nephew of former veteran DAB lawmaker Ip Kwok-him.

Bill Tang Ka-piu of the Federation of Trade Unions also reportedly may join the by-election race in the New Territories East constituency. Wong Kwok-hing of the party is also tipped to run. Both former lawmakers lost in the September election.

Starry Lee Wai-king, the chairwoman of DAB, said she understood that the localist pair will lodge an appeal and “it is too early” to discuss arrangements for the by-elections.

“I believe we will consider our strategy, and which one to adopt, to offer the best chance of winning in the by-elections – of course we hope to do our best to coordinate [with the pro-Beijing camp],” she said. “When the by-elections are confirmed, we will conduct the relevant negotiations.”

Starry Lee. File Photo: Stand News.

Should there be a seat vacant in each constituency, the by-election would be conducted using the first-past-the-post system, in which the pro-democracy camp often beats the pro-Beijing camp, such as the race in February which elected the Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, beating the DAB’s Holden Chow Ho-ding.

When asked about the chances of the party’s candidates, she said it would depend on the combination of candidates.

“There have been situations where there were more than two candidates in the past by-elections… Hong Kong people are very familiar with elections now, many people will be interested to join – it is difficult to coordinate,” she said.

Independence debate

Lee added that many citizens believed that Hong Kong independence will hurt the city.

“The by-elections are caused by two lawmakers advocating Hong Kong independence during their swearing-in… we will see if it will turn the public opinion [in DAB’s favour],” she said.

Asked about by-election arrangements if lawmaker Lau Siu-lai – also elected in the Kowloon West constituency – was also disqualified owing to legal challenge of her oath of office, she said that it was a hypothetical question and did not answer further.

Wong Kwok-kin (left). Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

‘Many interested’

Wong Kwok-kin, lawmaker of the Federation of Trade Unions, also said it was uncertain whether Yau and Leung would be able to appeal and apply for an injunction to block the by-elections.

“Only when we have clearer results will we discuss arrangements for by-elections,” he said.

On the potential of his party’s Tang and Wong Kwok-hing to join the race, he said: “I believe that not only them, but many people are interested.”

He said his party will have a mechanism to decide who will run should by-elections happen.

The Liberal Party’s Dominic Lee Tsz-king, who lost in the New Territories constituency in September, was also rumoured to run.

Lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan of the Liberal Party said he has not heard about any election plans.

Barrister Ronny Tong said that if the court grants leave to appeal, it would take one to two years to handle the case. If that is the case, there will not be a by-election in the next two years.


Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.