Ousted pro-democracy lawmaker Lau Siu-lai has registered as a candidate in the Legislative Council by-election next month, but her qualification has yet to be confirmed by a returning officer.
On Tuesday morning, the first day of the 14-day nomination period for the Nov. 25 by-election in the Kowloon West geographical constituency, Lau, accompanied by several incumbent pro-democracy lawmakers, went to the Kowloon City Government Offices to become the first candidate to submit her application to run in the race, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
In accordance with Section 40 of the Legco Ordinance, the founder of Democracy Groundwork, who is the first choice of the pan-democratic camp in the upcoming election, signed a declaration in the nomination form to state that she will uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Lau, 42, sees the declaration as a trap possibly set up by the government. Still, she said she signed it because the pro-democracy camp she represents wants to give voters the most prudent guarantee.
Lau and three other pro-democracy lawmakers－“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Edward Yiu Chung-yim－were disqualified by the High Court in July last year for improper oath-taking in October 2016.
Seeking to regain her seat, Lau said she wants to give the returning officers sufficient time to consider her candidacy by becoming the first to register.
She admitted it is difficult to say at the moment whether she will be allowed to run in the by-election, noting that the government had disqualified several pro-democracy candidates without presenting a convincing rationale for doing so.
Having collected nominations from more than 2,000 qualified voters over the past 10 days, Lau urged the government to respect the voters’ will and confirm as soon as possible her qualification to run. She stressed that she is not a supporter of Hong Kong independence.
Meanwhile, in a move that Lau called a bit surprising, former lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee also applied to run for the same seat.
He said he wanted to run to oppose the policy that “hand-picked” Lee Cheuk-yan, a former lawmaker and former chairman of the Labour Party, as “Plan B” candidate instead of going through a primary that signified a democratic process. He also said he was determined to throw a challenge to the pro-establishment camp.
Fung, who claimed to have gained 147 nominations, said he agreed that Lau has the priority to run in the by-election. He promised to withdraw his application if Lau’s candidacy is confirmed before the nomination period ends.
Sze Tak-loy, chairman of the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood, said his party supports the plan to hold a primary in the pan-democratic camp if Lau is disqualified during the nomination period.
If Lau is not disqualified this time, she will face her strongest opponent in the race, Chan Hoi-yan, who announced her decision to run in Kowloon West by-election in a sharing session held at Argyle Street Playground on Tuesday.
Chan previously worked as political assistant to former food and health secretary Dr. Ko Wing-man, who also showed up at the session.
While she is widely believed to have the backing of the pro-Beijing camp, Chan did not directly respond to questions on whether she would run as a pro-establishment candidate, stressing that she has not belonged to any specific party. She said people from the camp are only some of her friends.
Chan said she is now trying to gain support from across the political spectrum, including the pan-democratic camp. She also said she did not meet with any official at Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong regarding the by-election.
Saying she will make a big difference if she wins, Chan aims to raise HK$1.125 million to finance her campaign through online crowd-funding.
Chan is expected to register as a candidate on Thursday.
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