Ousted Hong Kong lawmaker Edward Yiu failed to be elected in Kowloon West as he does not have a background of working in the district, a prominent academic said.

Chinese University of Hong Kong senior lecturer Ivan Choy also said that the effect of an election boycott by some localist supporters was not as serious as he thought.

Edward Yiu and pro-Beijing winner Vincent Cheng. Photo: In-Media.

Sunday’s by-election – held to replace four of the six lawmakers disqualified over their oath taking – saw the opposition camp retake two of four contested seats, with Au Nok-hin and Gary Fan respectively winning in Hong Kong Island and New Territories East.

But it failed to retake seats in the Kowloon West and architectural functional constituencies.

‘Parachuted in’

“Out of the three pro-democracy candidates [in geographical constituencies], only Edward Yiu was ‘parachuted in,’” Choy told Now TV on Monday morning. “He had no support base in this constituency… he only came to Kowloon West in the last three months.”

“His election work was also relatively poor… his team was relatively small in Kowloon West. You did not even see people like [disqualified lawmaker] Lau Siu-lai and [influential ex-lawmaker] Frederick Fung speak out for him regularly.”

Choy added that the election may have shown the pro-democracy camp that simply focusing on one issue – the lawmakers’ disqualifications – was not an effective way of mobilising voters.

Ivan Choy. Photo: Stand News.

He said the strategy might have proven more effective if Sunday was a regular general election, where several seats are up for grabs in a single constituency.

“If this was an election with a threshold [needed to gain a seat] of 10 to 20 percent, you might be able to gather a group of people by focusing on one or two issues… But if the threshold in an election is 50 percent, you cannot have a narrow focus.”

Choy added that pro-Beijing supporters came out in greater numbers in Kowloon West than they did in Hong Kong Island or New Territories East.

In the 2016 legislative election, the main pro-Beijing candidates in Kowloon West – Priscilla Leung and Ann Chiang – won a total of 102,286 votes. Vincent Cheng – Yiu’s rival on Sunday – won a total of 107,479 votes.

‘Localist boycott’

In New Territories East, the Neo Democrats’ Gary Fan beat pro-Beijing rival Bill Tang, despite a number of localist bloggers urging Hongkongers not to vote for Fan over the past weeks.

New Territories East candidates, including Gary Fan (centre). Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

“Some people increasingly emphasise that they will refuse to vote reluctantly for another candidate,” said Choy. “Unless a candidate from their own camp is on the ballot, supporters of localist groups such as Youngspiration and Civic Passion might not vote.”

“But in this election at least part of their votes were transferred over to Gary Fan… We all wondered whether New Territories East would be affected by a ‘localist boycott’, but it does not seem to be very serious.”

Fellow Chinese University professor Ma Ngok told RTHK that the pro-democracy camp may have over-estimated the willingness of Hongkongers to vote out of anger over the disqualifications.

“I think disillusionment is a factor. After 2014, some people think that it is useless to do anything, efforts for democracy have failed, and even if you are elected you will still be disqualified.”

Elson Tong

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