What prompted Beijing to go soft on Edward Yiu?

February 01, 2018 12:42
Edward Yiu saw his candidacy for Legco by-election get cleared as Beijing may have felt that it should focus more on the threat posed by Demosisto party and its candidate Agnes Chow, according to some observers. Photo: HKEJ

The nod given to ousted lawmaker Edward Yiu Chung-yim to run for a seat in the Legislative Council by-elections came as a surprise to many people.

It is said that members of both the pan-democratic and the pro-establishment camps had been aware that the government had some reservations about Yiu.

Moreover, Beijing's liaison office is believed to have sought out key figures representing different sectors and solicited their views as to whether there were sufficient grounds to disqualify Yiu, given an oath-taking controversy involving the former lawmaker.

With such talk floating in political circles, quite a few people were caught off guard when they heard that Yiu's candidacy was cleared on Monday.

There had been much speculation that Beijing has been pulling the strings behind the scenes over decisions related to candidacy approvals for the March by-elections.

According to some pan-dems, Beijing did, at one point, want to oust Yiu for the second time, for fear that he might well pull the same stunt again, as he did in 2016, during oath-taking if he is elected.

Yiu and some other pro-democracy lawmakers were stripped of their Legco seats after they were found not sticking to norms during oath-taking in October 2016, with some of them also deemed to have uttered words insulting to China.

Despite misgivings, Beijing appears to have done a reassessment this time and felt that it is unlikely Yiu would dare to pull the same trick or make any provocative political statements if he makes it again to Legco.

Hence, it was decided that he should be let off and allowed to join the by-elections.

Besides, the pan-dems said, if Beijing disqualified Yiu again, he would almost certainly have filed an appeal with the court, and the Hong Kong government might have faced the risk of losing the case. So, after having weighed the pros and cons seriously, Beijing finally concluded that it wasn't worth the risk.

Moreover, they added, it was actually Agnes Chow Ting and her Demosistō party that Beijing was truly worried about, since the idea of "democratic self-determination" pitched by the party has touched a raw nerve among the Chinese leaders, and hence she was banned from running.

However, some in the pro-establishment camp say Beijing would probably have disqualified Yiu as well if it wasn’t for the ongoing issue surrounding Hong Kong's new Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, who has been caught up in a controversy over illegal structures at her home.

There are quite a few in the establishment camp who would have been happier to see Beijing disqualify Yiu, rather than Chow.

It is because, as they put it, Yiu had proven a much more formidable adversary to both the government and the pro-establishment camp compared to Chow.

Also, they believe that Chow, a 21-year-old rookie, would have at best have had only a fighting chance to win in the Hong Kong Island constituency if she had been allowed to run.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 30

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.