The by-elections for Hong Kong Island, Kowloon West, New Territories East, and the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency are scheduled to be held on March 11 next year, the Electoral Affairs Commission announced on Thursday.

The elections will fill seats vacated by four lawmakers who were ousted following a court ruling.

polling new territories east by-election
Photo: GovHK.

Former lawmakers Nathan Law and Edward Yiu did not appeal their disqualification, whilst Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching failed to have their appeal heard at Hong Kong’s highest court. Two other seats remain vacant, but “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai applied to appeal their disqualifications on Monday.

All four were removed from the legislature over the controversial way in which they took their oaths of office. In a rare move, Beijing handed down a interpretation of the city’s de facto constitution, leading a court to rule that they were never lawmakers to begin with.

Human resources shortage

The Commission said the government’s Registration and Electoral Office currently does not have enough staff members to hold by-elections of such scale, thus hiring and training of extra election staff will be required, which will take some time.

It noted that there are also two vacancies in the Central and Western District Council’s Peak and Tung Wah constituencies, which will be filled via by-elections later this year. It said the planning period of the Legislative Council by-elections will coincide with the District Council ones. The two vacancies were caused by the district councillors joining the government, which they have to resign from their posts.

A spokesperson for the Commission said there are multiple factors in the consideration of the by-election dates other than human resources, such as rental of polling stations, purchase and transport of election materials, use of public funds and holidays. Therefore, the planning for the LegCo by-elections will take more than six months.

carrie lam
Carrie Lam. File photo: In-Media.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters on Tuesday that 2.1 million voters will have the right to vote, and 400 voting stations may be required. “I wish to fill the vacant seats as soon as possible, because the Legislative Council is a place for discussion, and it represents the public in monitoring the government. It is designed to have 70 members – I hope the vacancies can be filled, so that the Council can do its tasks in the most effective way.”

She said the Commission may need to hire and train around 14,000 personnel through the Registration and Electoral Office for the geographical by-elections.

If new lawmakers take their oaths successfully after being elected in March next year, they will serve a term of around 18 months until September 2020.

Additional reporting: Kris Cheng.

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.