Date
17 December 2017
Carrie Lam has said it will take at least six months before Legco by-elections can be held, prompting critics to accuse that the government is going slow on the matter. Photo: HKEJ
Carrie Lam has said it will take at least six months before Legco by-elections can be held, prompting critics to accuse that the government is going slow on the matter. Photo: HKEJ

Govt shouldn’t drag its feet over filling Legco vacant seats

As the Court of Final Appeal has rejected bids by two ousted Youngspiration lawmakers to move forward with appeals over their disqualification, the legal proceedings over the Legco oath-taking saga can be deemed to have finally come to an end.

The next thing Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her administration should do right now is to arrange for by-elections as soon as possible to fill the vacant Legco seats. Unfortunately, it appears the government is dragging its feet over this urgent task.

It is true that Article 36 of the Legislative Council Ordinance only stipulates that all by-elections must be held four months before the end of the incumbent Legco term at the latest, and hasn’t specified how soon the government should hold a bypoll after a seat has become vacant.

However, according to the record on the previous seven Legco by-elections held since the handover, the government did on one occasion conduct a by-election within just some 50 days after the Legco vacancy had occurred.

In other words, it is without question that the administration is fully capable of holding a Legco by-election within months, if not weeks, to fill the vacant seats.

Yet so far the government has remained equivocal about when it is going to hold the by-elections to fill the vacant seats left behind by the Youngspiration duo Sixtus Leung (New Territories East) and Yau Wai-ching (Kowloon West), as well as two other seats formerly held by Nathan Law (Hong Kong Island) and Edward Yiu (architectural, surveying and planning sector functional constituency).

Law and Yiu, who were among four lawmakers who were also disqualified besides the Younspiration duo, for improper oath-taking, have made it clear that they won’t appeal the court ruling.

It is mind-boggling and outrageous that Lam, who had vowed to play no games on the issue of filling the vacant seats, recently pulled some lame and unheard-of excuses for the delays in carrying out the by-elections. For example, she claimed that it would take at least six months to train election staff.

As we await an announcement on the bypolls, we can say the schedule will serve as a test on Lam as to how sincere she was in her election pledges, which included a vow to improve relations between the government and the legislature.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 13

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RC

Legco member representing the Legal functional constituency (2012-2016) and a founding member of Civic Party

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