Democratic Party chairperson Emily Lau Wai-hing has confirmed that she will not seek re-elections to the Legislative Council this year.
The 63-year-old lawmaker, who has served in the legislature since 1991, said at a press conference this afternoon that her biggest regret was not having achieved full democracy.
She expressed frustration at the government for not meeting regularly with political parties, and for making controversial policies. She also expressed hope that newcomers to the legislature will “have a better way to deal” with these problems.
Lau’s decision came after the district council elections in November – the first citywide poll since the pro-democracy Occupy movement in 2014 – during which voters preferred young new faces over veterans.
She admitted there may be differences between her and the younger generation, but acknowledges she can never please everyone.
“I always meet with young people and listen to different opinions, but that doesn’t mean I will take all their views,” she said.
“I'll continue to play a very active role in civil society after leaving Legco; promoting democracy, rule of law and human rights.”
But two rising stars of the Democratic Party, southern district councillors Lo Kin-hei and Henry Chai Man-hon, have both given up contesting the Legislative Council elections, placing the prospect of the city’s biggest pro-democracy force in question.
Lo, the 31-year-old vice-chairman for the Democrats who won re-election last month by a wide margin, is tipped to succeed outgoing veteran lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan in contesting the so-called “super seat”. That is a poll involving some 3.2 million voters not eligible to vote in a functional constituency, but he said he did not wish at this time to go further as he contemplates his future.
“I have been making a dash for 10 years [in the political arena] and it is time for me to halt and reflect upon my life,” said Lo. He adds that he wanted to take a chance to learn something new before determining if politics would be his lifelong career.
Instead, incumbent James To Kun-sun, young district councillors Ted Hui Chi-fung, and romance novelist Roy Kwong Chun-yu are eyeing the two super seats.
Political scientist Ma Ngok of Chinese University said Lau’s departure would bring new hope to the party. “Lau was unlikely to attract a new voter base in the coming election if not lose the party’s old supporters,” he said.
Veteran Democrat Cheung Man-kwong admitted he was disappointed at the decision of Lo and Chai, but said the list has also showed the determination of the party to pass the torch.
The Democratic Party would finalise its roster of candidates in April. In the meantime, Lau will complete nine more months of service at the legislature.