Democracy activist Edward Yiu Chung-yim was given the go-ahead by the government to run in Hong Kong’s coming legislative by-election hours before the closing of nominations on Monday, in what was considered by many to be a narrow escape for the former lawmaker.
The news came two days after local election authorities sparked a political storm by disqualifying 21-year-old democracy activist Agnes Chow Ting from the same poll on the grounds that her party, Demosisto, had called for the city’s “self-determination” from Beijing’s rule, rendering her ineligible under restrictions to curb independence advocacy.
After the ban on Chow, Yiu had on Saturday accused officials of depriving Hongkongers of their right to stand for election.
Yiu had signed up to run for the Kowloon West constituency in the March race.
Last Friday, he was contacted by a returning officer from the city’s electoral authority and asked four questions, including whether he would sincerely uphold the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. He was also asked if he accepted Beijing’s ruling on oaths of office for the city’s lawmakers, which effectively led to his disqualification last year.
Yiu answered yes to both questions but asked how they were connected to the consideration of his candidacy.
The pro-democracy camp on Monday afternoon arranged for backup candidate Ramon Yuen Hoi-man to apply for the by-election when Yiu’s candidacy was not confirmed by noon.
As for the Hong Kong Island constituency, which is also up for grabs, former Democratic Party member Au Nok-hin signed up on Saturday as Chow’s replacement and was still waiting for his candidacy to be confirmed.
Yiu was elected in 2016 to represent the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency in Legco. He was one of six pro-democracy lawmakers removed from their seats by the High Court last year for improper oath-taking.
The by-election on March 11 is to fill the seats vacated by four of those six. They are Yiu, Nathan Law Kwun-chung (Hong Kong Island), Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang (New Territories East) and Yau Wai-ching (Kowloon West). Lau Siu-lai and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung are appealing the court decision, and no date has yet been set for by-elections to fill their seats.
Hong Kong’s political opposition set to benefit from ‘sympathy votes’ after activist barred from by-election
Yiu was endorsed as the pro-democracy camp’s favoured candidate after winning its recent primary, which consisted of a poll in which 26,000 Hongkongers voted.
But even before the primary, concerns had arisen that the former lawmaker’s comeback bid could be foiled by the government on the basis of Beijing’s ruling being applied to the entire term of the current legislature.