The results of last Sunday’s Legislative Council by-elections caught many observers by surprise, with the pro-democracy camp managing to reclaim only two of the four seats that were up for grabs.
Edward Yiu Chung-yim and Paul Zimmerman were defeated by their pro-establishment rivals by narrow margins in the Kowloon West constituency and the functional constituency representing the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sector.
With the benefit of hindsight, I would like to share with readers some of my views about the by-elections.
First, as far as our primaries that were conducted in January are concerned, they were intended as a competitive mechanism to coordinate the campaign efforts of the various groups in the pro-democracy camp so as to avoid infighting and boost our odds of winning.
Above all, by means of carrying out primaries, we could agree upon who was the most qualified candidate to represent us in the race fair and square.
True, in the course of holding the primaries, some controversies did arise among members of the pan-democratic camp from certain technical issues such as the election method of the “Plan B” candidate.
Even so, however, I still firmly believe that our success in establishing a mechanism for primaries definitely represents a milestone in prompting cooperation among different groups in the camp.
Only by continuing coordination and improving the mechanism through previous experiences can we lay the foundation for future cooperation work in campaign efforts of elections across all levels, among the various pan-dem groups in the days ahead.
As we all know, after six of our colleagues had been disqualified by the court last year, the pro-democracy camp was down to 14 seats in geographical constituencies in Legco and became the minority.
And the pro-establishment camp quickly rushed to seize that opportunity and amend the Legco Rules of Procedure. As a result, the oversight powers of the legislature have been undermined.
Unfortunately, as the pro-democracy camp failed to reclaim all of its lost seats in the recent Legco by-elections, it means we are still unable to exercise veto power under the split voting system.
Amid this situation, we simply cannot afford to lose again in the next by-elections in New Territories East and Kowloon East.
Ever since he took office as lawmaker in October 2016 right until he was disqualified in July 2017, Yiu proved instrumental in uncovering a series of government policy loopholes by analyzing official documents and figures using his expertise.
During his term in office, Yiu played a key role within the pro-democracy camp in scrutinizing funding requests for public works and infrastructure projects put forward by the government.
Likewise, Zimmerman has been putting a lot of efforts into pushing for town planning and heritage conservation initiatives and facilitating public participation in these two areas over the years.
Even though the two of them were unable to make it to Legco this time, their untiring efforts at enhancing public oversight of government policies and their dedication to safeguarding public interests undoubtedly deserve our attention and tribute.
It is my sincere hope that there are members from various professional sectors in the city that would follow in the footsteps of Yiu and Zimmerman and devote themselves to creating a better Hong Kong.
In the meantime, I urge fellow members of the pro-democracy camp and the supporters not to get frustrated with the setback suffered in the recent by-elections.
Rather, in face of the enormous mobilizing power of the pro-establishment camp, we must pull ourselves together and get prepared for upcoming tough battles over issues such as “co-location arrangement” for the cross-border high-speed rail and proposed local legislation of the national anthem law.
Reflecting on our election setbacks, we must stick together firmly in order to take on future challenges.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 13
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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