Lau Siu-lai of the Labour Party has been barred from running in the Kowloon West by-election. She will thus be unable to regain the Legislative Council seat she was ousted from in 2017.

Returning Officer Franco Kwok Wai-fun wrote in a letter on Friday that Lau’s nomination was invalid. Lau’s previously determined “Plan B” backup candidate, Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan, submitted his application to join the race earlier in the day.

Lau Siu-lai
Lau Siu-lai. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

Kwok cited a statement by Lau, lawmaker Eddie Chu and the Demosisto group from July 30, 2016 – before the 2016 election – as one of the reasons to bar her from the race. Lau had said in the statement that they will defend Hong Kong independence as an option if Hongkongers are allowed a choice on self-determination, Kwok wrote.

The officer stated that the High Court ruling in July 2017 – which disqualified Lau – said she had no intention to take her oath of office properly, citing a Facebook post she made in protest a day after the oath-taking ceremony in October 2016.

The officer also cited media reports from Ming Pao and Wen Wei Po quoting her 2016 election platform on self-determination, which was recently deleted from Lau’s website: “However, I believe the recently deleted general platform has been Lau Siu-lai’s political view all along,” Kwok wrote.

The officer said Lau declared on September 20 that she never supported Hong Kong independence, but Kwok said he did not believe it was sincere: “It was only a strategy she adopted to prevent the returning officer from making a decision not advantageous to her nomination.”

According to Kwok, Lau “completely rejected the governing rights of the Central People’s Government over the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.” Lau has become the ninth person to be barred from standing for election.

The Kowloon West by-election will be held on November 25 and its two-week nomination period started last Tuesday. Lau handed in her application form on the first day, as did a potential challenger Frederick Fung. The pro-establishment candidate Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan, also known as Yan, submitted her form last Wednesday.

See also: Interview: Can ousted lawmaker Lau Siu-lai win back her seat in a time of ‘absurd’ politics?

A government spokesperson said they agreed with the decision to disqualify Lau: “The candidate cannot possibly comply with the requirements of the relevant electoral laws, since advocating or promoting ‘self-determination’, or promoting independence could be an option for Hong Kong is contrary to the content of the declaration that the law requires a candidate to make to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the HKSAR.”

‘Absurd situation’

Lau had previously told HKFP that she would not speculate on the possibility of disqualification because “there is no point in calculating [the odds] in the face of absurdity.”

“We have entered an absurd situation and a reckless government, how can you calculate the odds of being disqualified?” she said at the time. “We can only say that we will face uncertainty with the greatest will.”

Lau was elected to the Legislative Council in 2016 with more than 38,000 votes, the highest of pro-democracy candidates in the Kowloon West geographical constituency.

Lau Siu-lai Lee Cheuk-yan
From left: Lee Cheuk-yan and Lau Siu-lai. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

She was disqualified as a lawmaker in 2017, along with five other non-establishment colleagues, because the court ruled her “slow motion” oath was invalid. The by-election for her seat was set in November after Lau gave up appealing the court decision in May.

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Lau formally announced her decision to run again in September with the broad support of pan-democrat and localist parties. However, some in the pro-democracy camp have criticised the fact that Lau’s backup candidate was not chosen via a primary election.

On Friday, those who have submitted the application form for the Kowloon West by-election include Lau, Lee, Fung and Chan. Aside from Lau, none of the others have been told whether their applications are valid.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.