A former lawmaker has urged the pro-democracy camp to hold primaries before potential by-elections are triggered by a court ruling which ousted two localist politicians from the legislature.

Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, a former Democratic Party member who lost in the election in September, made the suggestion after the government won its bid on Tuesday to eject Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung Chung-hang from the legislature. By-elections in the Kowloon West and New Territories East constituencies will be conducted within four to six months if the duo apply for, and fail to win, an injunction to suspend the execution of the court ruling.

Andrew Cheng Kar-foo
Andrew Cheng Kar-foo. File Photo: Inmedia.

Cheng said that in terms of political ethics, the seats in the by-elections should be contested by members of Youngspiration – Leung and Yau’s party – and those of Hong Kong Indigenous. Ahead of September’s election, the candidate of the localist Hong Kong Indigenous party was disqualified and Leung was invited to be its “substitute candidate.”

However, Cheng said the pro-democracy camp should support one candidate with the best chance of winning in each area to “defend the battlefield of the LegCo.”

One-on-one fight

The by-elections, if conducted, will be using a first-past-the-post system. Cheng said he wished there would be a one-on-one contest with the pro-Beijing camp in each area.

“A primary not only can gather the forces of the pro-democracy camp, it can also ensure that candidates have enough support, after the political views, ethics and actions of those interested to run are reviewed by the camp,” he said.

Cheng said if the suggestion was not accepted, “I believe it would be a very messy fight.”

He added that he has yet to make any plans to run in the potential race.

alvin yeung
Alvin Yeung. File Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Feasibility issues

Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, acting as the party’s leader, said that people need to “seriously consider the feasibility of a primary.”

“There are a lot of technical questions, including legal issues that we have to deal with,” he said. “It includes that whether the cost of election for those interested candidates would start to accumulate since the primary.”

Yeung, who first won his seat in a by-election in February, said his experience was that the financial pressure for candidates was significant.

“We should be fair to those interested, and have to protect their interests. I believe the pro-democracy camp will sit down and discuss these issues in the future,” he said.

When asked by reporters about rumours of Kenneth Chan Ka-lok running – a former lawmaker of the party – Yeung said he had yet to contact him.

pandems legco oath
Pan-democratic lawmakers. File Photo: HKFP.

Tanya Chan Suk-chong, also a Civic Party lawmaker, said her personal position was that she was “inclined to conduct a primary.”

But Yeung and Chan both said the party’s position was that it wished to support candidates who have the best chances of winning.

“We need to think thoroughly as to whether we can produce a scientific result within time constraints [in a primary],” she said.

Leung Kwok-hung "Long Hair"
Leung Kwok-hung “Long Hair”. File Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

No rush

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said “there is no rush” to decide upon arrangements for by-elections.

“Candidates will slowly come out,” he said.

“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, a League of Social Democrats lawmaker, also said preparations for by-elections would be “too early.”

“The most important thing now is to cast our opposition on the Basic Law interpretation,” he said. “The important thing is to discuss the ruling’s effect on Hong Kong’s future.”

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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.