Pan-democrats said on Monday they were ready to defend their ally Eddie Chu Hoi-dick against a possible attempt by the rival bloc to unseat him from Hong Kong’s legislature.
The camp is expected to have enough votes to block such a move, but members expressed worries that political vetting on similar grounds could be used in elections, including next year’s district council polls.
Chu was disqualified on Sunday from running in a rural committee election. The returning officer said it was because of Chu “implicitly confirming his support” for the city’s self-determination, which is seen by some as a cover for independence advocacy.
Following the disqualification, Stanley Ng Chau-pei, a local delegate to China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, called for Chu to be removed from his seat in the Legislative Council.
“Chu’s pro-independence ideas violated his oath in Legco. The government should launch the process to strip his lawmaker status,” Ng, who also chairs the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), wrote on his social media account on Sunday night.
Despite Chu repeatedly saying he was not in favour of Hong Kong independence, returning officer Enoch Yuen Ka-lok said the lawmaker had dodged questions about his political beliefs.
Yuen took this to suggest Chu supported the possibility of Hong Kong breaking away from China.
Council Front lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, who convenes pro-democracy camp meetings, said she had no doubt all 25 pan-democrats would back Chu if the rival camp tried to unseat him.
She also noted that the pro-establishment camp would not have enough votes to censure Chu.
“I don’t see how they can get the votes,” Mo said.
A censure motion can be launched on grounds of misbehaviour or breach of oath by a member of the council.
But the removal of a lawmaker requires support from two-thirds of all members present at the vote, which has to come after months of investigation by a committee consisting of seven lawmakers.
After losing two seats in by-elections this year, the pro-democracy camp is outnumbered 25 to 43.
One seat remains vacant, while medical sector lawmaker Pierre Chan Pui-yin is considered a moderate, and cannot be relied upon to back any attempted removal.
A source in the pro-democracy camp, however, said the margin would be small.
“If some [pro-democracy] members are out of town, it may be close,” the source said.
Speaking at Legco on Monday, Starry Lee Wai-king of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said the pro-establishment camp had not yet discussed a move against Chu.
“Let me clarify, so far there has been no lawmaker telling me they want to impeach Eddie Chu,” Lee said.
But she added she could not rule out the possibility.
One of five FTU members in Legco, Alice Mak Mei-kuen, said her party was yet to make concrete plans against Chu.
Chu acknowledged a censure motion was possible.
“There is no standard of what [misbehaviour] means … it is a battle of headcounts,” Chu said.
Mo expressed worries that the same process of political vetting that snared Chu could be used in citywide district council elections next year, for more than 400 seats.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin said further disqualifications would place his camp at an unfair disadvantage.
“The pro-establishment camp will not face the same problem. This is no different to controlling election results,” Au said.