The pro-Beijing DAB party has urged the government to hold a by-election to replace recently disqualified lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung Chung-hang.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong Chair Starry Lee said Wednesday that the government should not wait for the conclusion of a pending judicial review challenge over the oath of pro-democracy lawmaker Lau Siu-lai to hold a by-election. “The administration and the legislature should prioritise the handling of the two extra seats left by Leung and Yau,” she said.

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Starry Lee. File Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam said Wednesday that it is not up to the government to decide when to hold a by-election. He said the legislature’s clerk will need to formally announce the two offices vacant in the Gazette before the Electoral Affairs Commission can announce the date of any by-election.

Legislative Council President Andrew Leung previously said that he will start the process after the court makes a decision as to whether to hear the appeal of the duo.

On Wednesday, the Youngspiration pair lost an appeal to overturn a court’s decision to disqualify them from the legislature. The Court of Appeal said that it had reserved a time slot on Thursday to hear the duo’s appeal request, but the pair said they had asked for more time to draft their request.

“From past experience, the government typically needs four to six months to prepare for a by-election,” Tam said. He added that factors to be considered include the recruitment and training of polling officers, polling station arrangements and financial resources.

Raymond Tam
Raymond Tam. File Photo: Gov HK.

Since by-elections are costly – the New Territories East by-election that took place early this year cost around HK$70 million – the government needs to ensure public money will be well-spent, the official said.

He declined to comment on news reports that the Department of Justice has informed the court of its intention to challenge the oath of localist lawmaker Lau Siu-lai.

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Photo: PH Yang.

Lau said Wednesday that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the pro-Beijing camp conspired to strip the pro-democracy camp of power.

“It is a critical moment for the legislature, because – of the 35 geographical constituency lawmakers – 19 were pro-democracy and 16 pro-Beijing originally. Now there are 17 pro-democracy lawmakers left. If they succeed in removing me, there will be 16 lawmakers in each camp,” she said.

Lau Siu-lai
Lau Siu-lai.

The consequence, Lai said, is that pro-democracy lawmakers will be unable to block major, controversial bills from being passed. “Both the pro-democracy camp and Hong Kong society will be facing a tough battle,” she said.

Lawmaker Fernando Cheung called the government’s move a “coup d’etat by those in power,” while lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung said judges should realise that their duty is to ensure voters’ choices were being respected.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.