At least 15 opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong have decided they would resign if more than half of their supporters called for the move, rather than relying on the views of all residents over serving an extended term in the legislature.
They were among those within the bloc who wished to remain, but have adjusted the threshold to “avoid interference” from pro-government supporters who might not welcome them, as they tried to bridge the rift with colleagues bent on leaving.
The two factions continued to debate the matter, with just two weeks to a survey to gauge the views of supporters.
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Lawmakers face a dilemma as to whether they should remain in the Legislative Council, after China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, approved the city government’s decision to delay elections for not less than one year.
On Friday, after a week of deliberations, the “stay” camp, and the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, which will conduct the survey, announced a simplified and lowered threshold that at least 15 incumbents have agreed to abide by.
Instead of taking the views of two-thirds of supporters as proposed earlier, the 15 pan-democrats would resign if more than half of their supporters wanted them to do so, according to Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, which commissioned the poll.
Fellow lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said adjusting the threshold was to “avoid interference by non-pro-democracy supporters” that would lead them to resigning from the extended term.
“Our supporters remain very divided on the matter,” Lam said. “We don’t want our destiny of leaving or remaining to be determined by non-supporters who might hold lopsided views. Politically, we have to make a responsible decision for those who have voted for us.”
The institute will work with the Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Research at Chinese University to randomly poll 2,000 residents aged 18 or above, and announce the results as the Legco term expires at the end of the month.
According to institute president Robert Chung Ting-yiu, they will ask if respondents identify themselves as supporters of those incumbents abiding by the poll, and how much they support or oppose them continuing for another year.
“[The pan-democrats] are seeking a public mandate, instead of public opinion referencing,” Chung said. “That’s why we will only refer to views from an estimated 500 to 1,000 respondents who identify themselves as their supporters, instead of the whole camp or the whole population.”
As of Friday, the 15 – among 22 opposition incumbents – pledged to abide by the result of the polls, including seven from the Democratic Party, five from Civic Party, Council Front lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, Labour Party’s Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung and Shiu Ka-chun, who represents the social welfare sector.
They are inclined to stay in Legco to block any controversial government proposals, but some activists have argued for a collective boycott of an extended term said to violate democratic principles.
An earlier survey of 1,012 residents in mid-August found 37 per cent of respondents supported all incumbents serving out the term, while 41 per cent opposed them staying. The rest were undecided.
Among those who identified as opposition supporters, just 19 per cent said lawmakers should stay, while 61 per cent believed they should leave.