Pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee has said she is disappointed that separate by-elections will be held for the vacant lawmaker seats.

The by-elections for four of the six vacant Legislative Council seats will be held on March 11 next year. Meanwhile, ousted lawmakers “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai remain in legal limbo as they have filed appeals.

Lee, the chair of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said that the Electoral Affairs Commission had rushed to hold the by-elections before all legal proceedings were completed.

starry lee
Starry Lee. File photo: In-Media.

“It decided to hold separate by-elections; we are very disappointed,” she told TVB news in an interview. “If the two unfinished cases end before March 11, the Commission should hold all the by-elections together.”

“Otherwise, a second [by-election] will be held soon in a very short time, it will be disturbing the public and waste resources.”

The scheduled by-elections will be three direct elections in the Hong Kong Island, Kowloon West, and New Territories East constituencies through a first-past-the-post system, plus one in the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency, in which only sector professionals can vote.

Of the six vacancies, there are two vacancies each in the Kowloon West and the New Territories East constituencies.

"Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung Lau Siu-lai
“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai. Photo: Inmedia.

The pro-democracy camp had said it would have a better chance to win back the seats under first-past-the-post by-elections, instead of having by-elections for both seats in each constituency at the same time. Leung and Lau’s appeals effectively prevented a joint by-election of both seats in the constituencies at the same time.

Leung said on a D100 online radio programme on Thursday night that it was not certain that the Commission’s current arrangement would be final.

He questioned whether it would change if he and Lau’s appeals were completed before the end of the year, to benefit the pro-Beijing camp.

“This arrangement has yet to be gazetted,” he said. “Even if it is gazetted, can the government still change it?”

regina ip
Regina Ip. Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip said it would not cost a lot of extra money to hold separate by-elections, as tens of millions Hong Kong dollars are “nothing for the government.”

“It will make people feel it is fairer,” the New People’s Party lawmaker said on a Commercial Radio programme on Friday. “It would not look like political manipulation.”

Ip said the pro-Beijing camp should be making long-term plans to gain more new voters, and not just care about winning the by-elections. She also said that the pro-Beijing camp could use the opportunity to train young people in elections, adding that there were a few young people in her party who were interested in the Hong Kong Island constituency by-election.

In the announcement on Thursday, the Electoral Affairs Commission did not specify the nomination period.

Democratic Party chair and lawmaker Wu Chi-wai said it should be revealed as soon as possible. But he said it was reasonable to first arrange by-elections for four vacant seats, since it takes time to prepare elections.

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.