How an Ill Lawmaker Led to Landslide Defeat for Hong Kong Vote

After nine months of division in Hong Kong that saw protesters clash with police, the city’s decision on whether to accept a China-backed plan for picking its chief executive ended with 28 lawmakers voting against and 8 for.

A widely expected narrow defeat of the plan in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council became a blowout when a 78-year old lawmaker in favor of the proposal fell ill and his compatriots walked out in a failed bid to delay the ballot. While the incident wouldn’t have made a difference since the 28 opposing votes put the two-thirds majority needed for the plan past reach, it does mean records will show an overwhelming rejection.

“We didn’t want that result,” said Tam Yiu-chung, a lawmaker who supported the plan that would have required candidates for chief executive be approved by a committee. Protesters opposed the plan because they say it gave China control over the elections. Thursday’s walkout failed because it wasn’t adequately coordinated and “communication wasn’t great,” Tam told reporters.

Confusion reigned in the legislative chamber at mid-day yesterday when about half the members left in an attempt to force a 15-minute recess so that Lau Wong-fat, the unwell lawmaker, could return in time to vote.

Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang asked the clerk if there was a quorum after requests for recess were shouted at him. The clerk made an inaudible response, the recess was rejected and the vote taken.

Afterward, lawmakers who’d walked out of the vote attempted to explain themselves to reporters gathered outside. Nearby, some of those who voted against the plan took time to pose for pictures with yellow umbrellas, symbols of last year’s protests that occupied key parts of the city for 79 days.

“History is full of accidents, and the results showed history is on the side of democracy,” Lee Cheuk-yan, head of the Labour Party, said Thursday amid cheering supporters.

As for those didn’t vote, who included executive council members Jeffrey Lam and Regina Ip, they published a statement in newspapers Friday apologizing for the mistake.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE