The Yau Tsim Mong District Council by-election on March 24, 2019. Photo: HK Government

The Hong Kong government may cancel the District Council election if social unrest in the city continues in the next two weeks.

The suggestion of postponing or canceling the election, held every four years and scheduled for November 24, was first initiated in early September after confrontations between the police and anti-extradition demonstrators had been intensifying for three months.

At that time, the government evaluation was that postponing or canceling the election was “extremely small” as the move could lead to more violent protests, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported on Wednesday, citing an unnamed government source.

However, as the social unrest continued over the past month, especially on September 29 and October 1, the government now had an “open attitude” towards the idea of canceling the District Council election, the report said. It added that the government would make a decision after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made her third policy address on October 16.

Pro-establishment lawmakers urge the government to ensure a fair District Council election. Photo: RTHK

On September 27, a dozen pro-establishment lawmakers talked to Lam in a closed-door meeting and urged the government to ensure a fair District Council election.

According to a Ming Pao report, the lawmakers were worried that radical people would surround the poll and disturb voters in districts where the pro-democracy camp tended to lose.

Lam was quoted as telling the lawmakers that it would not be meaningful to only postpone the election by 14 days. She said the government would not rule out the possibility of canceling the elections in districts where polls had been disrupted.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a non-official Executive Council member, said it would not be fair to only cancel the elections in some districts. He added that it was not necessary to have the District Council, according to the Basic Law.

Although the words “District Council” were not mentioned in Section 5: District Organizations, Chapter IV: Political Structure of the Basic Law, “representatives of district-based organizations” were shown in Annex II as members of the Election Committee to select the Chief Executive, said Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, a Civic Party lawmaker.

“It was necessary to form the District Council, which should stop operations from January 1, 2020, if there was not an election by the year-end,” he said.

With huge election resources, the pro-establishment camp controls more than 300 of the 431 elected seats in the District Council, while the pro-democracy camp has about 100 seats. It also controls 117 of the 1,200 seats in the Election Committee for the Chief Executive election.

Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an associate professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong, said the situation would change in the next election if the non-establishment camp could win more than 300 seats as 440,000 people had registered to become new voters in the past few months.

James To Kun-sun, a Democratic Party lawmaker, said it was unlikely that pro-democracy supporters would disrupt the polls as their candidates were in the high ground.

The pro-establishment camp still hopes the election can continue.

If the government wanted to cancel the District Council, it should consult the Legislative Council, said Ann Chiang Lai-wan, a lawmaker from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the largest political party in the city.

On Wednesday, Wong Kwok-kin, a legislator for the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, urged the government to ensure a fair election after seven pro-Beijing District Councillors’ offices were vandalized by “rioters” on Tuesday.

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