Members of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp and political analysts are debating whether the 24 democratic lawmakers should accept the government’s offer to extend their terms by a year.
The government announced on July 31 that the LegCo elections, which were to be on September 6, would be delayed due to Covid-19. Since then, the pro-democratic camp has been discussing whether to resign and boycott the so-called provisional LegCo between October 1 and September 30, 2021.
Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, a Council Front lawmaker and a localist, said the opposition camp should stay away from the extended council on the grounds that lawmakers were not given a mandate to serve for one more year.
People Power’s Ray Chan said he preferred not to extend his term. He said pro-democracy lawmakers should make their decisions based on a referendum or at least a public survey.
Cheng Chung-tai, chairman of Civic Passion, said he would extend his term because resignation would not give pan-democrats a higher moral ground. Cheng said he would resign if all pan-democrats declared that they would boycott the 2021 LegCo elections.
Moderate legislators said they preferred to continue to work as lawmakers.
Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung said boycotting the extension would allow the government to pass controversial proposals such as changes to election laws without resistance.
“Of course there were times that we were not able to stop something extremely controversial, but still voices were heard, people were still being represented in council,” Yeung said. “If there’s no opposition voice in council, all these highly controversial items will be passed easily.”
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said taking part in the council would be the lesser of two evils. He said having a referendum on whether lawmakers should stay or boycott would not provide a clear answer because the result would probably not be by a landslide. He said people could express their views on lawmakers’ decisions in future elections.
Elmer Yuen, a retired Hong Kong entrepreneur and a political activist, said that pan-democrats should not accept the extension because such a move would embarrass the leaders of the Five Eyes countries, which were adding pressure on the Hong Kong government to resume the LegCo elections.
Lau Sai-leung, a former full-time member of the Central Policy Unit and currently a political commentator, said the government wanted to use the LegCo extension to split the pro-democracy camp so that it would win more than 35 seats in the LegCo in September 2021.
Lau said if there were no opposition camp in the chamber, the government would be easily granted funds for the proposed reclamation project in Lantau Island, which would spend all the city’s HK$1 trillion (US$129 billion) fiscal reserve in a few years.
Lau said he supported all pan-democrats staying in the chamber but it was important that pan-democrats should not be divided on the matter. He said it would be better to have all democratic supporters make a decision together.
On Monday, Apple Daily said in a front-page headline that pro-democracy lawmakers should extend their terms in the Legco.
Jimmy Lai, the newspaper’s founder, said even if lawmakers could not stop all the evil bills, it would show Hong Kong people’s determination to resist the government’s suppression.
On Tuesday, the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, which organised the primary elections for pro-democracy candidates on July 11 and 12, launched a public survey about whether the opposition camp should boycott the LegCo extension. It said it would consider holding a referendum if necessary.