Pan-dems mull options amid possible jail terms for two lawmakers

April 17, 2019 12:29
Pan-democrats are said to have begun looking for potential candidates to compete for the Legco seats held by Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun (inset) as the two lawmakers await sentencing for their role in the 2014 Occupy protests. Photos: Bloomberg, HKEJ

As lawmakers Tanya Chan Suk-chong and Shiu Ka-chun were among the nine Occupy Movement leaders that have been convicted in relation to the 2014 pro-democracy street protests and are now awaiting sentencing, the pro-democracy camp is believed to have begun looking for possible replacements for the seats held by the duo.

It is because the pan-dems fear Chan and Shiu will both receive jail terms of over three months.

If the worst-case scenario happens, it will not only impair the prospects of the lawmakers from holding onto their seats, it will also prevent the duo from joining the Legislative Council race in September 2020.

While a pro-establishment source says there is no sign, as least for now, of attempt to move any motion in Legco to oust the duo, we do not know if Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen might seek to invoke Article 79 of the Basic Law to remove the convicted lawmakers from office.

Article 79 stipulates that the Legco president “shall declare that a member of the Council is no longer qualified for the office" under any of seven circumstances. One of the circumstances is “when he or she, with no valid reason, is absent from meetings for three consecutive months without the consent of the President of the Legislative Council.”

Leung told an RTHK program on Tuesday that there are many variables in play and there has never been such situation before. The matter needs to be dealt with caution, the Legco chief said, adding that any decision would depend on close study of court rulings and external legal advice.

In the meantime, we should bear in mind Article 39 of the Legislative Council Ordinance stipulates that “[a] person is disqualified from being nominated as a candidate at an election, and from being elected as a Member”, if the person is or has been convicted, where the election is to be held or is held within five years after the date of that person’s conviction, “in Hong Kong or any other place, of an offence for which the person has been sentenced to imprisonment, whether suspended or not, for a term exceeding 3 months without the option of a fine”.

In other words, if Chan and Shiu get jail terms of over three months, and are unable to complete the judicial processes regarding their appeal by the end of this Legco term, the two will be banned from running in the 2020 Legco election under the law.

It is understood that the Civic Party, which is anything but hopeful about Chan’s political prospects, has had discussions as to who else it can put up for the Hong Kong Island seat in the 2020 race.

Among the potential candidates is said to be party executive committee member Cheng Tat-hung, who is currently a sitting Eastern District Councilor representing the Tanner constituency in North Point, and who is also widely considered a rising star within the Civic Party.

Nevertheless, the party won’t make any decision on the matter until Chan’s sentencing is completed and the District Council election also runs its course in November this year.

As for Shiu, who is an incumbent lawmaker representing the social welfare sector in the functional constituency, the pan-democratic political group to which he belongs, the Reclaiming Social Work Movement (RSWM), is said to be inclined to nominate one of its members to compete in the 2020 race in order to fill the vacancy left behind by Shiu.

Yet the group is yet to reach a formal decision, as several potential candidates are said to have declined the offer.

Meanwhile, news has also got out within the social welfare sector that apart from members of the RSWM, at least two other individuals, namely Ken Tsang Kin-chiu, who had been involved in a high-profile assault case involving seven police officers during the Occupy protests, and Oscar Lai Man-lok, former vice-chair of Demosistō, are eyeing the seat.

However, neither Tsang nor Lai is understood to have officially “signed up” for the 2020 race yet.

Among others, Dr Ting Wai-fong, a prominent figure in the local social welfare sector and a RSWM member, is said to be another potential front-runner in the 2020 Legco race.

There is also talk that Hong Kong Unison founder Fermi Wong Wai-fun has been encouraged to run. When contacted by us, Wong, however, insisted -- citing health reasons -- that she has no plans to run for Legco.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 15

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.