Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said the government will not use by-election arrangements to take advantage of the democrats when replacing disqualified lawmakers.
A total of six lawmakers have been disqualified by the court for failing to take their oaths properly, leaving their seats vacant. No by-election arrangements have been made since the first two disqualifications nine months ago, which are awaiting approval for final appeal from the highest court.
Normally, by-elections should be held four to six months after a vacancy – those for the first two vacant seats should be held earlier. But if by-elections for all seats are held together, there would be a higher chance for the democrats to lose at least two seats.
Lam was asked if she would consent to some democrats’ request for the by-elections to be held separately.
“Since I took office, I have shown my utmost sincerity towards improving the relationship between the administration and the legislature, but we cannot make compromises on the spirit of the rule of law,” she said. “We have to follow the law.”
“But we won’t make any special moves at the by-elections – we won’t take advantage of their difficulties and add insult to injury. We will arrange by-elections whenever it is required legally and after considering the actual circumstances.”
But she would not say whether there will be one or two by-elections: “I can’t tell you now. Both cases are still undergoing legal proceedings.”
She said it was the court’s decision that the disqualified lawmakers should pay for all legal fees, but the question of whether they should pay back their wages, subsidies, and operating expenses was up to the Legislative Council.
“We will not interfere with the Legislative Council,” she said.
Lam’s plan to allocate HK$3.6 billion in new education funds was not passed by LegCo’s Finance Committee last week, since the court disqualified the lawmakers during the meetings, forcing them to be cut short.
The only meeting left before a summer break will be on Wednesday. The government reviewed the agenda and cut the number of items from 18 down to eight.
“These are all important and urgent items,” Lam said.
Lam said there were 16 public works worth HK$76 billion and 9,900 construction jobs in the funding proposal: “I urge lawmakers to use the time wisely and pass them all.”
The items also include a proposal for a salary raise for civil servants.
Lam also said the government will issue measures to resolve the recent surge in patients at hospitals brought about by seasonal influenza. She proposed measures such as asking doctors who are on leave to help, using more capacity at private hospitals, and urging patients who can be discharged to leave as soon as possible.
“I said before it is no problem if more resources are needed.”