By-election for ousted Hong Kong lawmaker's seat set for Nov 25

Ousted democratic lawmaker Lau Siu-lai (right) and former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung speak to the media in Hong Kong, on July 14, 2017.
Ousted democratic lawmaker Lau Siu-lai (right) and former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung speak to the media in Hong Kong, on July 14, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG - A Legislative Council by-election in Hong Kong on Nov 25 sets the stage for a potential showdown between pro-democracy and pro-establishment camps in the city.

The date of the vote in the Kowloon West constituency was announced by the Electoral Affairs Commission after ousted democratic lawmaker Lau Siu-lai dropped her appeal against a ruling that disqualified her from office for improper oath-taking, reported the South China Morning Post.

Estimates suggest that nominations could start as early as late September, though the commission has not made an official announcement.

"It was one month earlier than expected, that requires democrats to work together for this uphill battle," said Ms Lau, who is poised to contest her lost seat.

Ms Lau was one of six opposition lawmakers that were removed from the Legco over the oath-taking saga. Democrats later won two of the seats, while the pro-establishment camp won two in March by-elections.

Another former lawmaker, "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung continues to appeal against being removed from his seat and has vowed to take the matter to the top court if necessary.

The November by-election is scheduled to take place three days before the appeals court hears Mr Leung's case. That makes it impossible to have by-elections in Kowloon West and the New Territories East constituencies at the same time.

Most democratic parties have backed former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan for the November by-election to guard against the possibility of Ms Lau being barred from contesting.

However, pan-democrat Frederick Fung Kin-kee has called for a primary to determine who should contest the seat.

Ms Lau has urged Mr Fung and his party, the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, to drop the demand.

"Given the limited time, we should not hold a primary on this, which will confuse voters, (who will ask) why we are holding a primary for the backup, instead of supporting the candidate?" Ms Lau said.

The pro-establishment camp has not yet taken a decision on who will contest against Ms Lau. Former health minister Dr Ko Wing-man was reportedly asked by the camp and the central government's liaison office to run.

He told the South China Morning Post that he was "still pondering over whether to contest.

The seat in Kowloon West could determine whether democrats regain veto power in the Legco and block legislative bills, including proposed changes to Legco rules to temporarily suspend or fine lawmakers.