Legco by-elections off

There will be no by-election for the two vacated seats in the Legislative Council after two pro-democracy lawmakers were unseated last month.

Angel Kwan

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

There will be no by-election for the two vacated seats in the Legislative Council after two pro-democracy lawmakers were unseated last month.

The Electoral Affairs Commission said in a statement yesterday that preparations for a by-election are expected to take more than six months.

According to the Legislative Council Ordinance, the EAC must arrange a by-election after Legco declares the existence of a vacancy. The current two vacancies were declared on January 3.

But the by-elections should not be held within the four months preceding the end of the Council's current term of office, meaning the by-election should be held before June.

"In other words, it is not possible to hold the by-election for the two geographical constituencies before the statutory deadline," the statement wrote.

It says preparations involve "an enormous amount of manpower and resources" which will overlap with the Legco general election this September, adding that the EAC currently has insufficient manpower to prepare for both elections concurrently.

It also said the EAC needs more time and resources to prepare and arrange venues and contingencies due to the current social situation, and that the Registration and Electoral Office is still handling follow-up work for the 2019 district council election as well.

A similar situation happened a few years ago, when former lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah resigned from his position effective October 1, 2015. District Council elections also took place in November of that year.

But the EAC soon announced that the by-election for Tong's seat would be held on February 28, 2016. The seat was won by the Civic Party's Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu.

The Legco general election took place in September of the same year.

Gary Fan Kwok-wai, one of the unseated lawmakers, said the decision has "political concerns."

Fan said he is disappointed in the decision made by EAC this time, saying that it has "ignored the people's voice".

"I believe the decision involves other political concerns from the government - that they do not want another 'public opinion tsunami,'" Fan said.

He also worried that this decision would heavily increase the workload of other lawmakers in the two constituencies.

Another unseated lawmaker, Au Nok-hin, slammed the government for not holding a by-election within a reasonable time frame.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said the decision was aimed at "prevent another round of defeat for pro-establishment candidates," thus affecting the results of the upcoming general election.

He said if the government has the determination to hold the by-elections, they do not need half a year to prepare.

But Ann Chiang Lai-wan from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said it would be a waste of manpower and resources for a by-election to be held in a hurry.

angel.kwan@singtaonewscorp.com