- Electoral Affairs Commission set to rule out by-elections for two Legislative Council seats, with full polls coming in September
- Vacancies arose after court ruling against banning candidates over political views and the eventual winners declared ‘not duly elected’
By-elections will not be held to fill seats vacated by ousted lawmakers ahead of Hong Kong's Legislative Council polls in September, the Post has learned.
The Electoral Affairs Commission has decided not to stage ballots to replace two legislators who were removed after candidates in their races were found to have been wrongly disqualified.
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The move means rival camps will not fight a third round of by-elections in as many years over a scandal starting in 2016 about the political stances taken by pro-democracy candidates.
In March 2018, Agnes Chow Ting, of Demosisto, and localist Ventus Lau Wing-hong were banned from running in by-elections that month on the grounds of their positions on self-determination and independence for the city.
The pro-democracy camp enjoyed a victory against the government in two election petitions, when the courts found the returning officers had failed to give Chow and Lau the opportunity to respond.
But the ruling, upheld by the Court of Final Appeal in December, unseated two other pro-democracy lawmakers " Au Nok-hin and Gary Fan Kwok-wai " who won those by-elections in 2018, after judges found they were not "duly elected" because of the bungled disqualifications.
Au was Chow's backup candidate, while Fan ran in the poll that Lau had put himself forward for. The pan-democrats currently control 23 of the legislature's 67 seats.
The electoral body is to announce on Tuesday at the earliest its decision not to rerun the by-elections, when it is expected to outline the difficulties of doing so with the general polls for Legco coming in September. The seats will instead by contested as part of the general election.
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Commission chiefs previously said they had to "assess the practicality to decide whether a by-election should be held", with factors including "manpower, the booking of polling stations and other practical situations".
The decision will also apply to a third vacated seat in Legco, which is still subject to legal proceedings.
Ousted lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung has challenged since 2017 his removal for improper oath-taking, but lost in the High Court and Court of Appeal.
He previously pledged to take the matter to the top court, although no date had been fixed for the hearing, a legal source said.
Too many elections have been held already. It's exhaustingRegina Ip
Six pro-democracy lawmakers were unseated in 2016 and 2017 in a controversy over their oaths of office, which involved newly elected members inserting pro-independence slogans and insults against China into the declaration.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee supported the commission's decision, saying it was not worth having yet another by-election before the September poll.
"The elected member in a by-election will only serve for another one to two months. There is simply no, point either the pro-establishment or pro-democracy bloc," said Ip, founder of the New People's Party.
"Too many elections have been held already. It's exhausting."
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Tanya Chan, convenor of the pro-democracy camp, said the decision meant voters and lawmakers were paying the price for election irregularities by the returning officers. But she conceded the lack of by-elections had little effect on the political situation.
"The by-elections may reflect the public's will, but this is a one-on-one contest between the camps, that is not indicative for the September election," Chan said.
Pro-democracy candidate files petition saying illegal conduct cost him council race
Both Au and Fan have criticised the election body for not organising a by-election, citing rules they said only restricted by-elections from being held within four months of the end of Legco's term.
Au is expected to turn to academia in the field of public policy. Fan, of the NeoDemocrats, said he was still considering whether he should run in the September elections and would discuss the matter with his party.
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