Pro-establishment camp figures, including Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, have been lashing out at the government and the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) over their decision to hold Legco by-elections on March 11 next year.
The pro-Beijing camp is protesting the election schedule on the ground that it would clash with the annual plenary sessions of the National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Given that Lee has rarely spoken out against any government decision before, her resounding criticism suggests that the discontent among the pro-establishment camp with the government over the by-elections date has reached a tipping point.
According to sources from the pro-establishment camp, the reason for their big anger this time is that the decision has aroused widespread suspicions among them that holding the by-elections on such an awkward date could be part of a plot to tilt the odds in favor of the pro-democracy camp.
In particular, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen is believed to be in the firing line. A pro-establishment lawmaker even said that the government has literally painted a bull’s eye on its back by standing by the decision over the date of the by-elections.
The camp’s anger over the by-elections date, in fact, dates back long before this decision.
Earlier, the administration tightened regulation on the current arrangements over voter registration, an act which has provoked widespread dismay among the pro-establishment camp because the new measures are said to have disqualified many elderly voters, who have long remained the support base for pro-Beijing parties.
As such, the recent decision over the date of the by-elections was just the last straw which led to outbursts from key members of the pro-establishment camp, who were already at the end of their tether.
Meanwhile, some in the pro-Beijing camp also didn’t buy the government’s explanation that the EAC has the final word over deciding on the date of the by-elections, and therefore its independent decision must be respected.
They cited the confirmation form to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region imposed on Legco election candidates in 2016 as an example, saying that was obviously a political decision made by the government rather than a legal requirement, and the EAC just enforced it with no questions asked.
The pro-establishment figures believe that contrary to what the administration said, the government does have the power to influence the EAC’s decision.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 2
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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