Pro-Beijing heavyweight Starry Lee has expressed support for a single by-election to fill all six seats vacated by ousted pro-democracy and localist lawmakers, citing the conservation of resources as a reason.

Last Friday, the High Court disqualified pro-democracy lawmakers Lau Siu-lai, Nathan Law, Leung Kwok-hung and Edward Yiu over the ways in which they took their oaths of office last October. No by-election arrangements have been announced by the government so far, including for localist lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung, who were the first to be ousted last November.

Starry Lee Wai-king
Starry Lee Wai-king. File photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

If the government holds a by-election for all six seats at the same time, there is a greater chance that the opposition camp will fail to retake at least two seats. This is because two geographical constituencies now have two empty seats, which formerly belonged to Yau Wai-ching and Lau Siu-lai in Kowloon West, and Baggio Leung and Leung kwok-hung in New Territories East.

Public funds

On Tuesday, pro-Beijing legislator Starry Lee told reporters at the Legislative Council that for the sake of conserving public resources, it would be more reasonable to hold a by-election for all six seats at the same time.

“Every by-election takes up a lot of resources, including public funds,” said Lee, the chairperson of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. “If we look at the previous by-election in New Territories East [in February 2016], one seat in one constituency used up HK$70 million.”

She added that the government would also need to hire personnel and lease venues such as schools and community centres for polling stations.

“You cannot say that six legislative seats out of 70 is a small number,” she said. “Therefore there will be a great impact on the operations of the Legislative Council if there is too much delay.”

Leung Kwok-hung Edward Yiu Lau Siu-lai Nathan Law
The four disqualified lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung, Edward Yiu, Lau Siu-lai and Nathan Law. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

“I think holding a by-election later this year or in the beginning of next year will minimise the impact on the legislature.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that she would not seek to “take advantage” of the pro-democracy camp or make any “special moves” in the by-elections.

“We will arrange by-elections whenever it is required legally and after considering the actual circumstances,” she said.

See also: Gov’t won’t take advantage of democrats with by-election arrangements, says Carrie Lam

Chairperson Lee likewise told reporters she hoped the Electoral Affairs Commission would provide fair and legal arrangements for the by-election. However, she declined to comment on what actions the pro-Beijing camp would take if the commission decided to hold separate elections for each of the ousted lawmakers.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.