After nine leaders of the 2014 Occupy Movement were convicted of public nuisance charges earlier this month, there is growing concern that two of them – pro-democracy lawmakers Tanya Chan Suk-chong of the Civic Party and Shiu Ka-chun, who represents the social welfare functional constituency – will be ousted from the Legislative Council.
However, a pro-establishment figure has told us in no uncertain terms that no member of the bloc, at least for the time being, plans to move a motion in Legco seeking to remove the duo from office due to their criminal conviction.
That’s because the pro-Beijing camp wouldn’t benefit from such an action even if it did so, the source said.
Under the Basic Law, a two-thirds majority vote from the Legco members present is required to unseat an incumbent lawmaker who has been convicted and sentenced to at least one month in jail for a criminal offense committed within or outside the SAR.
At present, the pro-establishment camp occupies 43 seats in the council, including Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, while the pan-democrats hold 24 seats, not including Chan and Shiu.
So even if the pro-establishment camp makes a bid to disqualify the two in the presence of all Legco members in a council meeting, it will still be a few votes short of securing the passage of its motion.
The pro-establishment camp may still pull it off if at least one or two pan-dems are absent at the time of voting.
However, even some pro-Beijing figures concede that the chances of that scenario taking place are close to zero as it is unimaginable that the pan-dems would lower their guard at this critical moment against any such offensive by their pro-establishment opponents.
Even localist lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai of Civic Passion, who rarely takes part in any joint action mounted by the pan-dems, is expected to fall into line this time as the entire pro-democracy camp in Legco is struggling to survive.
Besides, even if the pro-establishment camp does succeed in ousting Chan and Shiu, it doesn’t necessarily mean such would bring any benefit to the bloc.
Unlike in Kowloon West, where the pro-Beijing camp pulled off a coup and defeated the pan-democratic candidates in the past two by-elections, the Hong Kong Island constituency, where Chan got elected, has always been a pro-democracy stronghold.
As a pro-establishment figure puts it, unless Hong Kong undergoes a significant change in terms of voter sentiment, pro-Beijing candidates will have little chance of winning a Legco by-election in this geographical constituency.
Likewise, the functional constituency of the social welfare sector has been a pro-democracy stronghold over the years. As such, even if the incumbent Shiu is ousted, it is very likely that his vacant seat will end up in the hands of another pan-democratic candidate in a by-election.
There is one more issue that is holding back the pro-establishment camp from seeking to oust Chan and Shiu, and that is that the nine convicted Occupy leaders are likely to appeal against their conviction.
Since the 2020 Legco race is only about 18 months away, there is a huge question mark hanging over whether the judicial processes can be wrapped up soon enough to allow by-elections to take place.
And even if that best-case scenario happens, candidates who have won the two by-elections will only have a few remaining months to serve before the 2020 Legco race.
Simply put, as far as the pro-Beijing camp is concerned, it just isn’t worth all the resources and effort required to unseat Chan and Shiu and then trigger another set of by-elections.
Moreover, there is also a concern among those candidates claiming to be moderate and centralist in the pro-establishment camp that they could alienate their supporters and jeopardize their own election prospects in 2020, if the pro-Beijing camp makes an aggressive bid to get rid of the two.
As such, one can expect that unless Beijing gives the order, the pro-establishment camp has neither the intention nor the motivation to go after Chan and Shiu at all costs.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 12
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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