The Civic Party retained its seat in the New Territories East by-election last weekend after its former member Ronny Tong Ka-wah quit the party and resigned from the legislature last year.
New Territories East, now represented by Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu in the Legislative Council, is a big geographic constituency covering several districts, including the densely populated Tseung Kwan O, Shatin, Tai Po and Sheung Shui.
Residents are from all social strata, and almost a million of them registered to be voters.
Seven candidates contested in the by-election. The winner will only serve the remainder of Tong’s term — merely half a year before the Legco general election in September.
Yeung received more than 160,000 votes, and Edward Leung Tin-kei from Hong Kong Indigenous got more than 66,000 in the by-election, in which 400,000 people turned out to vote.
Holden Chow Ho-ding from the Beijing-friendly Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong received 150,000 votes.
Combining Yeung and Leung’s numbers, the democratic bloc garnered more than 52 percent of the vote.
Still, Yeung and the Civic Party’s victory is somewhat eclipsed by Leung’s astonishing popularity among voters — even after the authorities nabbed him for the Mong Kok unrest on the night of Feb. 8.
Leung has now proclaimed that nativist groups like his own have emerged to shatter the “duopoly” of the pro-Beijing and pro-democratic camps and replace it with a three-way race.
Hongkongers have never been big fans of the filibustering that has pervaded and paralyzed Legco for years.
The familiar rhetoric from the government and its yes-men is that lawmakers who deploy such tactics in the chamber are causing a horrible waste of public money in a way that hinders and impairs people’s livelihood.
The worry that the democratic bloc might lose its razor-thin majority of the geographical constituencies — which allows it to veto private member’s bills — if it lost Tong’s former seat hung over the by-election.
The Mong Kok clashes further exacerbated the situation, as many democrats feared that the incident would galvanize the public into giving the rival camp an easy win in the by-election.
That would allow the pro-Beijing lawmakers — freed from the constraint of that veto — to amend Legco’s rules of procedure to eradicate filibustering for good.
Now the by-election results have revealed that what the voters feel is quite the opposite.
They would rather let the filibusters go on than have the pro-establishment parties to lord over Legco.
It’s clear that the democratic lawmakers’ “critical minority” status, giving them the power of the veto, must be preserved to provide checks and balances on the government.
Yeung’s victory is thus a morale booster to all democrats.
Beijing’s blessing and ample resources notwithstanding, the DAB’s Chow suffered a rout, but he still talked trash afterward, saying he would still seek ways to “put Hong Kong back on the right track”.
That contrasted favorably with Leung, who remained high-spirited, saying the by-election result was a “glorious defeat” in which he won 15 percent of all the votes cast last Sunday.
The next six months will be eventful for Legco, which will have to scrutinize several ultra-controversial bills, like additional funding for the express rail link and the northeast New Territories development plan, and the copyright amendment bill may also be tabled again.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 3.
Translation by Frank Chen
[Chinese version 中文版]
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