Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Hong Kong By-election: Last-ditch push in Kowloon West as candidates struggle against low turnout and rain

Both pro-Beijing and pro-democracy candidates in the Legislative Council by-election issued “emergency” calls to mobilise their base on Sunday afternoon. However, voter turnout remained relatively low in Kowloon West amid drizzly weather.

A total of 143,923 residents had cast their ballots by 5:30 pm, representing 29.54 per cent of eligible voters in the constituency.

Kai Ching Estate

Supporters campaigning for Rebecca Chan in Kai Ching Estate. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Throughout Sunday, the voter turnout was largely similar to that in the March by-election in the same constituency, with divergences of under 1 per cent. However, the turnout, thus far, marks a noticeable drop from that of the 2016 Legislative Council election.

See also: Explainer: Meet the candidates in the Hong Kong West Kowloon by-election

Democrats have said that a low voter count – considered common in by-elections – would disproportionately hurt their chances. In the surprise defeat of pro-democracy candidate Edward Yiu in March, a total of 44.31 per cent of eligible voters turned out in Kowloon West.

Lee Cheuk-yan

Lee Cheuk-yan. Photo: Inmediahk.net.

Volunteers for Lee Cheuk-yan and Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan have told HKFP that the rain and low temperatures may have contributed to voters being reluctant to venture out after lunch.

Should democrats win the seat, they will reclaim veto power against the pro-Beijing camp’s bills, motions and amendments, enabling them to vote down any further changes to the legislature’s house rules. But if they lose, the pro-Beijing camp may propose changes, such as fines for lawmakers who are kicked out of the chamber for protesting.

Last-ditch campaigning

Supporters of Lee and Chan – the main candidates in the pro-democracy and pro-Beijing camp respectively – clashed at Whampoa on Sunday morning.

Rebecca Chan

Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan. Photo: Inmediahk.net.

Supporters from both camps shouted slogans at each other with loudspeakers for around 20 minutes. As Chan was about to leave, Demosisto’s Joshua Wong – along with democrats Gary Fan and Charles Mok – tried to intercept her and shouted more slogans.

Joshua Wong rebecca Chan

Joshua Wong clashes with candidate Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan. Photo: inmediahk.net.

“We don’t need another Ann Chiang,” Wong said, referring to the pro-Beijing lawmaker who supports Chan.

In response, Chiang said that Wong “came to disrupt society even before he completed his education.”

Separately, Lee was accosted by an Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) official while he was canvassing in a Sham Shui Po restaurant. The official said that Lee was not allowed to campaign there as it was within the “no canvassing zone.”

Lee Cheuk-yan restaurant

Lee Cheuk-yan. Photo: Apple Daily.

His opponent Frederick Fung was also campaigning in the same restaurant at the time, prompting democrat Alan Leong to ask the official why Lee was singled out.

Frederick Fung restaurant

Frederick Fung. Photo: Apple Daily.

The official relented after Lee said that the restaurant was private property and he had the owner’s permission.

Lee Cheuk-yan

Lee Cheuk-yan. Photo: Inmediahk.net.

Two-page spread

On Sunday, pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao ran a headline saying “Yan for improvement, depends on your vote,” with two pages of coverage related to her campaign.

EAC Chairman Barnabas Fung told reporters that fact-based reporting and commentary on the election would be protected under the freedom of the press, but if the report constituted an election advertisement then it would be subject to the law.

Any election advertisement not endorsed by the candidate would fall foul of the rules, and the case may be referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Fung added.

Ta Kung Pao

Front page of Ta Kung Pao on November 25, 2018. Photo: Ta Kung Pao website.

Fung said the EAC received 15 complaints as of 9am Sunday 9, including  seven cases which were related to election ads and three cases concerning canvassing in “no canvassing zones.”

Other candidates in the by-election include Judy Tzeng Li-wen and Ng Dick-hay.

Hong Kong By-election: Last-ditch push in Kowloon West as candidates struggle against low turnout and rain