The government has finalised the date of by-elections for four Legislative Council seats. The official gazette states they will take place on March 11 next year.
The pro-Beijing camp had previously asked the government to adjust the date, as clashes with the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, which will be attended by hundreds of their colleagues.
The Electoral Affairs Commission announced the date in September, but it was only gazetted two months later on Friday. The gazette also stated that the nomination period will run between January 16 and 29.
Ip Kwok-him, a Hong Kong delegate to the Chinese legislature, said earlier that the date may affect the pro-Beijing camp’s campaigning efforts.
“It would be better to make it a week earlier or a week later – there would not be a huge effect if it is delayed for a week,” he told Sing Tao Daily in September after the date was announced.
In October, Citizen News cited unnamed sources as reporting that the Electoral Affairs Commission and the Registration and Electoral Office had considered delaying the by-election.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip said she understood her camp and the government had raised concerns over inconvenience to the Electoral Affairs Commission.
“On election day, all the voters in three regions who are NPC delegates will have to fly back to Hong Kong one day in advance. It will hinder their vote getting efforts on behalf of their favourite candidates. It would cause a lot of inconvenience, but I understand this is an independent decision taken by the Electoral Affairs Commission in accordance with the law, so I respect its decision,” she said on Friday.
She said her New People’s Party intends to send a candidate to run in the by-elections and they were trying to get her camp’s support. Her party’s Judy Chan was rumoured to run in the Hong Kong Island constituency.
Two vacancies yet to fill
The scheduled by-elections will involve 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 members of one professional sector can vote.
Ousted lawmakers “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai had filed appeals over their disqualifications, effectively preventing a joint by-election of both seats in the constituencies at the same time.
Of the six vacancies at the LegCo, there are two vacancies each in the Kowloon West and the New Territories East constituencies.
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.
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 an interpretation of the city’s de facto constitution, leading a court to rule that they were never lawmakers to begin with.