The pro-establishment camp risked being punished by voters in November's district council elections because of the fallout from the aborted extradition bill and could lose more than a third of its vote share, a leading member of the camp has warned.
The bloc voiced its anger and disappointment with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in a meeting with her on Saturday over her handling of the controversial bill, which she suspended after it sparked massive protests and violent clashes.
Alice Mak Mei-kuen, one of the government-friendly lawmakers, swore at Lam when the chief executive tearfully explained her decision to pause the passage of the bill.
Mak then grew teary-eyed herself as she issued an expletive-filled challenge to Lam to personally face disgruntled residents in districts where pro-establishment parties could be hurt in the next polls.
Her colourful language in Cantonese was the talk of the town among the city's pro-establishment camp lawmakers over the past few days, many of whom cited it to show the depth of anger among them.
Beijing loyalists in Hong Kong had thrown their weight behind the bill, which would have allowed the city to transfer fugitives to jurisdictions which it lacked an arrangement with, including mainland China. They had tried to win support for the bill on the ground and felt they were slowly making headway.
But they felt let down and embarrassed after the government suspended the legislation in the wake of massive turnout of a march on June 9 and violent clashes between protesters and police on June 12.
A pro-establishment lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expected the camp to pay a heavy price at upcoming district council elections in November and the Legislative Council election next year.
"The blow will be bigger than that in the aftermath of the controversy over national security legislation in 2003," the lawmaker said. "I expect our number of votes in upcoming district council elections could drop by at least 30 per cent from what we won in 2015."
Candidates from the pro-establishment camp won more than 790,000 votes in the 2015 district council elections, much higher than about 580,000 clinched by the pan-democrats.
But the camp was trounced in the aftermath of another political storm back in 2003.
The blow will be bigger than that in the aftermath of the controversy over national security legislation in 2003Pro-establishment lawmaker
District council elections were held four months after 500,000 people took to the streets to oppose the proposed national security legislation, more popularly named the Article 23 bill. In that election, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) suffered a humiliating defeat, securing just 62 of the 206 seats it contested. The Democratic Party won 95 of 120 seats contested.
The DAB merged with the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance in 2005 to form Hong Kong's largest pro-government party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
Analysts said the DAB setback was the result of many middle-class voters - who had sat out previous district elections - going to the polls to make plain their unhappiness with the party for supporting the national security legislation.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Leung Che-cheung, also a member of Yuen Long District Council, said his camp faced a "very difficult" task to win seats in November's elections.
"Some young and middle-aged voters could be swayed by the recent controversy to support the pan-democratic camp. So for the pro-establishment candidates who would originally have a 50 per cent chance to win seats, now they could lose," he said.
Leung also said while some pro-establishment district councillors could see their votes increase by 10 per cent, pan-democrats could win more seats as their votes could increase by up to 30 per cent.
Executive councillor Ip Kwok-him, a former DAB vice-chairman, also warned the row was set to pose problems for pro-establishment politicians at the polls.
City University political scientist Ray Yep Kin-man agreed some voters would punish the pro-establishment candidates through their ballots.
"But I doubt the pro-establishment camp would suffer a humiliating effect in coming elections, because pan-democrats' resources in the districts can hardly be compared with that of their rivals," he said.
Meanwhile, Mak refused to confirm if she did use profanities at Lam, even though the cat was let out of the bag accidentally by her pro-establishment colleague Christopher Cheung Wah-fung.
Cheung, also a vice-chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC), was attending the council's meeting on Tuesday when he was heard making the remarks in a private conversation with the council's chairman Anthony Neoh during a break. The pair did not realise their microphones were still on.
Cheung said: "Don't you know that? The girl who (used a profanity towards) Lam … was Alice Mak from the FTU, she had promised her voters that the bill would definitely be passed.
"She also said (to Lam): 'Are you the only woman who knows how to cry? I also cried all night'."
Neoh asked: "How could a lawmaker say something like that?"
Cheung replied: "She gambled everything on this. She is definitely not winning another term."
On Wednesday, Mak refused to confirm if she was the lawmaker who used swear words towards Lam, when reporters queried her repeatedly. "I won't disclose anything that happened during the closed-door meeting," she said.
Asked if she would accept Lam's apology, Mak said: "The issue is not whether we accept the apology or not. We need to mend the social divide. The pro-establishment camp's election campaign is also not our priority at the moment."
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