22 May 2019
Chan Hoi-yan hit the campaign trail after she registered as a candidate for the Nov. 25 Legco by-election on Thursday. Photo: Bloomberg/HKEJ
Chan Hoi-yan hit the campaign trail after she registered as a candidate for the Nov. 25 Legco by-election on Thursday. Photo: Bloomberg/HKEJ

Pro-establishment camp to benefit from pan-dems’ infighting

Frederick Fung Kin-kee’s decision to run in the Legislative Council by-election in Kowloon West has drawn a lot of flak from his fellow pan-dems.

Some went as far as saying that “behaviorally speaking, Fung is no longer a member of the pro-democracy camp”.

Fung argued that he filed his candidacy on the first day of the nomination period as a form of protest against the pan-dems’ decision to hand-pick former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, who used to head the Labour Party, as their “Plan B” candidate once their “Plan A” candidate, the ousted lawmaker Lau Siu-lai, is barred from running again.

Fung insisted that a primary should be held to decide who is going to replace Lau in such a scenario.

Fung, the former chairman of the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood, also vowed to withdraw from the race as he has already promised once Lau’s candidacy is officially approved by the Registration and Electoral Office (REO).

However, there is already speculation that even if Lau is eventually allowed by the government to run, it is very likely that Fung would still stay in the race, citing whatever grounds he can think of to justify his about-face.

After all, Fung has long regarded Kowloon West as his “home field”, and believes he stands a pretty good chance of winning, even though the stats have suggested that he might be a bit over-optimistic.

According to conventional wisdom, the pan-dems would always have an advantage over their pro-establishment rivals in any “single-seat, single-vote” election.

However, the defeat of Edward Yiu Chung-yim by pro-establishment rookie Vincent Cheng Wing-shun in the by-election back in March this year has completely debunked that myth.

Many have attributed Yiu’s loss to the fact that he was only able to take around 100,000 out of the total 160,000 votes grossed by the entire pro-democracy camp in Kowloon West in the 2016 election.

As such, in our opinion, Lau’s election prospects are already hanging in the balance even without Fung’s challenge, and Fung’s entering the race would only further undermine her odds of winning.

The continued fragmentation and infighting of the pan-democratic camp will definitely work in the favor of Chan Hoi-yan, despite her zero experience in elections.

Besides, even if Fung eventually keeps his promise and withdraws after Lau’s candidacy is approved by the REO, the damage is already done as the saga would inevitably leave a negative impression on voters about the unity of the pro-democracy camp.

That said, no matter how the episode is going to play out, we believe the election prospects of the pan-dems on Nov. 25 are anything but promising.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 3

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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