Posts Tagged ‘Edward Leung’

Hong Kong Independence Activist Pushed to The Dide in a City Now Dominated By Beijing Chinese

May 2, 2018

Hong Kong belongs to China now. The crackdown on independence campaigners in Hong Kong has seen activists barred from standing for office and ejected from Hong Kong’s partially elected legislature.

© AFP / by Elaine YU | The crackdown on independence campaigners has seen activists barred from standing for office and ejected from Hong Kong’s partially elected legislature

HONG KONG (AFP) – It was only two years ago that thousands gathered near government headquarters in the heart of Hong Kong for an energetic rally in support of independence from China.Today such scenes are unthinkable in the semi-autonomous city as Beijing ramps up pressure on any challenge to its sovereignty.

The crackdown on independence campaigners has seen activists barred from standing for office and ejected from Hong Kong’s partially elected legislature.

Universities have warned students not to advocate independence on campus, describing it as unconstitutional.

And with its most popular figure, 26-year-old Edward Leung, facing up to 10 years in prison over clashes with police in 2016, the movement is now leaderless.

But while morale is at an all-time low, clandestine pockets of campaigning persist.

Groups who spoke with AFP said they meet in secret out of concern for their safety. Some said their members had been followed and intimidated by men who would not say who sent them.

They use encrypted communication channels and security measures such as multi-factor authentication, and prefer to meet face-to-face for sensitive discussions.

At the Chinese University of Hong Kong, students are setting up an underground “research group” on independence.

Organisers say it aims to foster a sense of local identity and to remove taboos around the issue. Between 30 and 40 people have signed up and the membership list is closely guarded.

One CUHK student leader, who gave his name as Wilson, told AFP young people must be prepared for “revolution” in the face of a local government loyal to Beijing.

Promoting independence per se is not a crime under Hong Kong law and activists see the suppression of advocacy as a breach of freedom of speech guaranteed by the city’s mini-constitution, which grants rights unseen on the mainland.

“When this government keeps incriminating independence, we need to say even more that it is not a crime, but a way out for Hong Kong people in the future,” Wilson said.

– No answers –

The independence movement’s struggles come at a time of malaise and fragmentation in the wider democracy camp.

Calls for a split from China grew out of the failure of the Umbrella Movement rallies of 2014 to win political reform as some activists grew tired of peaceful protest.

Their message called for more drastic action, with some even speaking of laying down their lives for the cause.

Pro-independence group Hong Kong National Front, which says it has up to 30 members, organises weekly physical training including how to “quickly subdue” opponents in the event of confrontations, a convenor who gave his name as Louis told AFP.

But campaigners such as ousted lawmaker Baggio Leung — who has visited university campuses to discuss independence — admit they lack a cohesive strategy.

“(The students) all have a question in common: what can we do to push this thing? Everyone is seeking an answer but no one can give them that yet,” he told AFP.

Leung, 31, was elected lawmaker in 2016 alongside fellow independence activist Yau Wai-ching in a stunning victory for the movement, but both were dismissed after an intervention from Beijing for inserting protests into their oaths of office.

Traditional democrats have disavowed what they see as nihilistic young radicals, who in turn reject the mainstream opposition as ineffective.

Public sympathy has also waned: a poll conducted by CUHK last year showed support for independence had dropped from 17.4 percent in 2016 to 11.4 percent.

– ‘Total control’ –

There are some who accuse the movement of being an invention of establishment forces, designed to give authorities an excuse for a wider crackdown on political freedoms.

Activists call the conspiracy theories a smear.

At the same time, authorities are eager to lump together varied opposition figures and groups and label them pro-independence — and therefore unacceptable.

Pro-democracy campaigner and law professor Benny Tai, who says he does not support independence, recently earned an official rebuke from the Hong Kong government and Chinese state media for discussing the topic at a human rights forum in Taiwan.

Leading democracy activist Agnes Chow, who does not campaign for independence but whose party supports self-determination for Hong Kong, was recently barred from standing for office.

Activist Andy Chan, 27, banned from running in elections in 2016 for his pro-independence stance, predicts room for dissenting views will continue to narrow.

“In the eyes of the Chinese Communist Party, if you fight for democracy, you are fighting for independence,” he said.

“They want total control.”


Divisions in Hong Kong’s politics seem ever more dangerous — Hong Kong’s independence groups fear the long arm of China’s Communist Party

August 29, 2016

Two years after taking part in the famous Umbrella Movement, 25-year-old Edward Leung is back on the streets of Hong Kong with a blunt assessment of political progress.

“I was a peaceful protester. But what have we achieved? Nothing.”

This week the former British colony holds its first citywide election since the democracy protests, with opinion polls suggesting that young voters are growing more radical.

Edward Leung says that’s what frustration does to you.

“After the failure of the protests I started to question myself – am I willing to pay a higher price? Like the history of black power in US in 1960s. There was a man called Malcolm X, there was a man called Martin Luther King. People advocate their own means no matter if it’s peaceful or forceful one. I advocate all means.

“Of course if peaceful means could change society then I would love to do so because it’s less costly. But if it’s essential to use more radical means to put pressure on the government I’m open to use this means, more forceful means.”

Edward Leung is already awaiting trial on charges of rioting after a street protest earlier this year.

He’s one of a group of young democracy activists who were hoping to win election to the Legislative Council and make mainstream their battle to free Hong Kong from Beijing’s authoritarian politics.

But along with five others, he has been barred from standing as a candidate because the authorities fear that if he won a seat in the Legislative Council, he might use it as a mandate to campaign for independence.

In this long exposure photo, Pro-democracy demonstrators holding up their smartphones during a protest near the Hong Kong government headquarters on 29 September 2014.

The Occupy Central protests saw tens of thousands of demonstrators flood the city centre in September 2014. Getty Images

Chinese state media describe independence advocacy as absurd and poisonous. For Beijing, allowing self-determination in any part of China is unthinkable.

In Tibet or Xinjiang even demanding meaningful autonomy is punished with long jail terms. Peaceful activists are often charged with separatism and lumped in a criminal category with those who use violence.

Political commentator Bao Pu grew up in elite Communist Party circles in Beijing and says in the context of China’s increasingly strident nationalism, independence is simply not realistic for Hong Kong. Beijing, he says, would respond with overwhelming force.

“To gain independence, the only way is for Hong Kong to have an independent army and fight with the People’s Liberation Army and win. I think that scenario is non-existent,” he says.

But against a backdrop of political paralysis, economic slowdown and the growing influence of mainland China in every walk of life, some young Hong Kongers are beginning to think the unthinkable. In a recent poll by the Chinese University of Hong Kong nearly 40% of those surveyed under the age of 25 supported the idea of independence.

Alvin Yeung of the Civic Party is 35 and not in the independence camp. But campaigning for re-election this week, he defended the free-speech rights of those who do advocate independence, and said Beijing only has itself to blame for the radicalisation of young people in Hong Kong.

Carrie Grace and Alvin Yeung

Alvin Yeung campaigns for free speech but does not back independence from China

“They have been interfering with HK affairs dramatically. We used to believe that even if we can’t choose our own chief executive we can choose our own legislature. But now this year this government is demonstrating the opposite. They handpicked a few candidates. This is very worrying.”

Keeping independence advocates out of the Legislative Council is one red line for Beijing. Keeping them out of secondary schools is another.

With teenage activists planning to discuss independence in school, some pro-Beijing groups are now pressing for classroom talks by mainland politicians and criminal sanctions against teachers who advocate independence.

As the legislative election and the start of the new school year coincide in the days ahead, the battle for young hearts and minds is in full swing.

Starry Lee campaigning

Starry Lee heads Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing party

“Moving forward together” is the campaign slogan for the pro-Beijing DAB party. Party chairwoman Starry Lee smiles and bows to voters from a busy pedestrian overpass but she has a stern warning for young people who talk the language of independence.

“I cannot see how becoming radical or going extreme can solve problems. Do you think people in Hong Kong will pay the price for and fight for Hong Kong independence? I don’t think so.

“If you push for Hong Kong independence it means a very high price for Hong Kong society and I think that everyone knows that this is not joking.”

A passing voter shuns Starry Lee’s party politics but agrees that Beijing is not joking and says hardly a day goes by when she doesn’t think about leaving Hong Kong.

'We Will Be Back' is displayed on a sign taped to the road outside Hong Kong's Government complex on December 11, 2014 in Hong Kong

Two years ago protesters vowed to continue with their campaign, but many young voters are frustrated. Getty Images

“I really think it’s going to end bad if the majority think that we have to go for independence because I do believe central government will do anything to keep the country as one. I love Hong Kong, it’s my home. But I can see the potential for it turning bad.”

Commentator Bao Pu says whatever public sentiment, the direction of travel is not towards independence but in the opposite direction – towards greater dependence on the mainland.

“In a practical sense, Beijing has full control over what kind of democracy Hong Kong can enjoy,” he says.

“People on the streets have little say in this and China’s influence will naturally grow because Hong Kong’s economic, political and social situation are all connected to mainland China. This is a trend that nobody can reverse.”

As competing candidates vie for public attention in the closing days of the Legco election, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the vote will have little impact on fundamentals.

And with some of the leaders of the Umbrella Movement excluded, the divisions in Hong Kong’s politics seem ever more dangerous. As one person sums it up: “‘The choice is stark. Adapt, leave or die.”


 (Has links to many related articles)

Bookseller Lam Wing-kee (C) takes part in a protest march with pro-democracy lawmakers and supporters in Hong Kong, China June 18, 2016.

 (Contains many  links to articles on the Chinese human rights lawyers)

Hong Kong rejecting “insidious chipping away at our values and our lifestyle” by China’s rulers — Pre-election calls for independence from China grow

August 26, 2016

OFFICIALS in Hong Kong say they want to cover up the royal insignia on the cast-iron letterboxes from the territory’s colonial era. A small thing, you might think, and let’s not get mawkish about British rule. But it would be a telling move. Anson Chan, the city’s most respected figure, calls the boxes “part of our collective memory”. And many young people to whom Banyan has spoken since recently moving to Hong Kong echo what Mrs Chan calls an “insidious chipping away at our values and our lifestyle” by China’s rulers and those who do their bidding. The issue is a central one in elections for the Legislative Council (Legco) that will be held on September 4th.

Its prominence was guaranteed after the electoral commission insisted that all candidates “confirm” that Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China. Some refused, or the commission did not believe their declaration. They are part of a growing “localist” movement seeking to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy and a culture distinct from China’s. On August 5th over 2,000 people gathered in support of the disqualified candidates. It was, in effect, Hong Kong’s first ever pro-independence rally.

A profound change of mood has overtaken the territory in the past couple of years. The guarantees made when an open society passed to a Communist dictatorship in 1997 are no longer so widely believed. Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, held that the city’s way of life was to remain unchanged until at least 2047. The champion of “one country, two systems”, Deng Xiaoping, who died just months before the handover, had said there was no reason why it should not hold for a century. As head of the civil service before and (for nearly four years) after the handover, Mrs Chan was an embodiment of the guarantees.

Hong Kong. Photograph by Jonas Gratzer, LightRocket via Getty Images

But under “C.Y.” Leung Chun-ying, a property man with strong ties to the mainland who has led Hong Kong since 2012, it is no longer clear what is being done in the territory’s best interests. True, Mr Leung has taken steps to see that elderly people are better provided for; they have long been shamefully neglected, as those who can often be seen eking a bent-backed living collecting scrap cardboard can attest. But Mr Leung’s mission is essentially a political one: to help China keep Hong Kong’s sense of the territory’s distinctiveness in check. From the moment when he made his inaugural speech in Mandarin rather than Cantonese, the local language, the direction of travel under a man assumed to be a closet member of the Communist Party has been clear.

This has created increasingly stark choices for Hong Kong, as was evident during the “Occupy” or “Umbrella” movement two years ago. It grew in response to China’s legislature handing down long-awaited rules for the election in 2017 of Hong Kong’s next leader. Universal suffrage had been promised in the Basic Law. But China insisted on being able to vet the candidates through an “election committee” dominated by the party’s sympathisers in Hong Kong, who could be counted on to exclude popular democrats (such as Mrs Chan). A semi-democratic Legco rejected the package. Student-led protests erupted, blocking streets in busy commercial areas for over two months.

Mr Leung faced down the protesters. Since then a hard line has crept into Hong Kong’s affairs, undermining the old guarantees. Last year the University of Hong Kong’s recommendation of a legal scholar, Johannes Chan, as its deputy vice-chancellor was vetoed by a governing council packed with outside members appointed by Mr Leung. It looked like punishment for Mr Chan’s support for pro-democracy movements. Since then, academics say a chill of self-censorship has descended on campuses.

Perceptions of other much-admired institutions are also changing for the worse. One such body is the Independent Commission Against Corruption. It is accountable only to the chief executive, which is why the sudden transfer and resignation in July of a highly regarded official running an investigation into Mr Leung’s business dealings has led to turmoil and dismay within the commission. Across the civil service, morale is ebbing.

Dogmatism is creeping in, too. The education department recently issued a ban on independence even being discussed in schools. The most notorious incident occurred late last year with the disappearance of five men involved with a Hong Kong bookshop specialising in salacious material about China’s leaders. One of the men seems to have been bundled out of Hong Kong by Chinese state-security goons. Even Britain, which under David Cameron was fixated on commercial gain in China and downplayed anxieties in Hong Kong, was moved to protest. It took a while longer for Mr Leung to go through the motions.

Mainland officials harrumph that in Hong Kong there has been way too little “decolonisation” and too much “desinification”. A hard line and “patriotic” education are their remedy for a spoiled and ungrateful populace. But can’t they see? That is why people are talking about independence in the first place.

For some young people, 2047, when all bets are off, seems not such a long way away. “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” says Joshua Wong Chi-fung, a 19-year-old who was one of the Occupy leaders and wants self-determination. Two years ago he was seen as radical. Now a small but growing share of the young sees peaceful disobedience as quaint.

So, yes, the letterboxes are small stuff. But small things these days can blow up. Take the riot that was sparked when officials tried to close down unlicensed hawkers selling snacks during the Chinese new-year holiday in February. The “fishball revolution” was condemned by China as the work of splittists and black hands. Meanwhile on Lugard Road on the Peak, a famous sightseeing route named after a British governor, they have not yet started dismantling the wonderful old lamp-posts. But someone has written on every one: C.Y. (Leung), step down.

Although dismissed by many as impossible, suport for a break away from Beijing appears to have grown especially among the young

 Edward Leung of the group Hong Kong Indigenous speaks at a pre-election campaign event. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

When Edward Leung closes his eyes and dreams of Hong Kong’s future he pictures a utopian metropolis of skyscrapers and social justice, “where people can do whatever they want as long as it isn’t harmful to others”.

“It’s an international place. A cosmopolitan state,” says the fashionable 25-year-old politics and philosophy graduate.

Is it part of China? “No,” Leung replies emphatically. “Not any more.”

Leung is one of the leaders of a small but increasingly visible independence movement in the former British colony that is setting the agenda before key elections for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council parliament on 4 September.

The movement was catapulted into the headlines in early August when the semi-autonomous city – which returned to Chinese rule almost two decades ago, in 1997 – saw the first pro-independence rally in its history.

Several thousand protesters took to the streets after six pro-independence candidates, foremost amongst them Leung, were barred from the upcoming election in what critics condemned as an act of political censorship designed to snuff out opposition to Beijing’s authoritarian rule.

“They try every means to oppress us,” complained Leung, one of the leaders of Hong Kong Indigenous, a so-called “localist” political group founded in the wake of 2014’s umbrella movement protests to combat what its members see as China’s erosion of the city’s way of life.

Edward Leung speaks to the press after challenging a controversial election rules requiring candidates for upcoming elections to sign a form saying the city is an “inalienable” part of China.
Edward Leung speaks to the press after challenging a controversial election rules requiring candidates for upcoming elections to sign a form saying the city is an “inalienable” part of China. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Beijing considers advocating independence subversion and its Communist party-controlled media has given “extremists” such as Leung short shrift.

In a recent editorial the editor of the nationalist tabloid the Global Times lampooned “the Hong Kong independence farce” as a radical fringe that would not be tolerated.

The former colony’s Beijing-backed government has claimed such ideas are a blatant violation of the territory’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which describes Hong Kong as an “inalienable part” of the People’s Republic of China.

Yet experts and activists say there has been a recent groundswell of support for independence among Hong Kong’s disillusioned youth who fear the “one country, two systems” formula – introduced after handover to safeguard its much-cherished freedoms – is no longer working.

A Chinese University of Hong Kong study, published in July, showed 17% of citizens backed splitting from China with that figure reaching nearly 40% among 15 to 24-year-olds.

“Compare it to a cancer if you like. It has spread from loony talk to universities, and now to secondary schools,” a columnist for the South China Morning Post admitted this week, arguing that interest in independence was here to stay.

Chan Ho-tin, the 25-year-old founder of the Hong Kong national party, one of several recently formed pro-independence groups, said he had been surprised how many people attended August’s historic rally, which he organised.

“Two years ago Hong Kong independence was a taboo. You couldn’t say that. If you said that … everybody condemned you: you’re nuts, you’re crazy,” said Chan, who was among the six candidates barred from running in next month’s election.

There’s more:

Read the rest:


 (Has links to many related articles)

Bookseller Lam Wing-kee (C) takes part in a protest march with pro-democracy lawmakers and supporters in Hong Kong, China June 18, 2016.

 (Contains many  links to articles on the Chinese human rights lawyers)

Hong Kong: The Umbrella Movement Morphs Into Pro-Independence, With Legislative Council Elections September 4 — But Some Warn That Political Reform for HK Is Dead

August 17, 2016

HONG KONG — The run-up to the Sept. 4 election for Legislative Council is getting tense, and the governments of both Hong Kong and Beijing are watching with keen interest. For the first time, a crop of fresh-faced candidates who cut their political teeth during the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014 are hoping to bring to the lawmaking body their battle to emancipate Hong Kong from Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian control.

The activists, most of whom are in their 20s, no longer believe in the promises of the “one country, two systems” principle set out in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution since Britain handed the territory back to China in 1997. Even after paralyzing major traffic hubs in the city for 79 days in 2014, they failed to obtain any concession to democratize the rules by which the head of Hong Kong’s government, the chief executive, is nominated and elected. They concluded from the experience that democracy is impossible in Hong Kong as long as the territory remains under Chinese sovereignty.

These “paratroopers” — as they are affectionately called by supporters in homage to their standing up to police brutality — are now asking for more than they were during the Umbrella Movement, or than the mainstream pro-democracy camp known as the pan-democrats. Two years ago, as protesters, they invoked the Basic Law to demand true universal suffrage and a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong. Today, they are calling for Hong Kong’s right to self-determination or even outright independence from China in 2047, when the Basic Law is set to expire.

Edward Leung Tin-kei, arguably the paratrooper with the best chance of securing a seat in LegCo, has been disqualified. He is the eloquent leader of Hong Kong Indigenous, a party that advocates a distinct national identity for the people of Hong Kong. Another aspirant who was sidelined is from the fledgling Hong Kong National Party, which calls for the city to secede from China and become a full-blown nation of its own.

Since being barred from running for LegCo, Edward Leung has joined forces with another young activist who has been allowed to contest a seat: Baggio Leung Chung-hang, the pro-independence leader of the group Youngspiration. Another important new party is Demosisto, which calls for holding a referendum within 10 years to determine Hong Kong’s political future after 2047. Demosisto is headed by the 19-year-old Joshua Wong, a mainstay of the Umbrella Movement who, though battle-tested by those protests, is still too young to run in any election.

Publications once known for their independent-mindedness and liberal views, like Ming Pao and Hong Kong Economic Journal, have recently run editorials denouncing separatism or touting China’s national security interests above all else. Both have undergone rounds of management changes over the past few years and have thinned their ranks of commentators known to be sympathetic to the pro-democracy movement. (My own column for Hong Kong Economic Journal, for which I started working in 1991, was abruptly terminated last month.)

The Hong Kong Economic Journal. Photo: Stand News

Read the rest in The New York Times:

Hong Kong: Government’s decision to disqualify candidates sparks more discussion on Hong Kong’s future course — Hong Kong independence rally begins

August 6, 2016

Edward Chan King-sang says courts, not electoral officials, should make calls on whether candidates faked pledges

By Shirley Zhao
South China Morning Post

Friday, August 5, 2016, 11:24pm

The government’s decision to disqualify localist candidates from running in next month’s ­Legislative Council elections will have a “long and deep” negative impact on Hong Kong’s legal system, former Bar Association chairman Edward Chan ­King-sang said yesterday.

Chan’s comments came as outgoing lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing of the Democratic Party, wrote a letter yesterday to the Human Rights Committee under the United Nations about the “disturbing development”, ­condemning the rejections and calling on the committee to “take urgent action”.

Electoral officials had cited the candidates’ pro-independence stance as against the Basic Law, and that they did not “genuinely” respect and uphold the mini-constitution even after some had signed a declaration stating so.

Chan said if supporting Hong Kong independence was a crime and candidates were found guilty by the court, they could be disqualified even after they were elected.

Therefore it should also be up to the court, not electoral officers, to decide whether candidates had faked their pledges.

“[Faking pledges] is a very ­serious accusation,” said Chan in a Commercial Radio programme. “The legal system should be the one to decide whether candidates are guilty of this.”

Chan claimed officials and civil servants, who did not have legal power and should be objective, were letting politics “eat into” the legal system by bypassing it and passing judgment ­themselves.

 Edward Leung (centre) was one of several localist candidates disqualified from the coming polls by the Electoral Affairs Commission. Photo: AFP

Six pro-independence candidates, including Edward Leung Tin-kei of Hong Kong Indigenous, were disqualified from the September 4 elections by the Electoral Affairs Commission. A recent survey showed Leung could have won a seat if he had been allowed to run.

The city’s justice chief Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung on Wednesday defended the commission’s ­decisions, saying the returning ­officer’s call to invalidate Leung because she felt he had no intention of upholding the Basic Law, “had a legal basis”.

But Chan said the law is ­allowed to be amended and a person could uphold the law while wanting to change it. He added it could be argued that a lawmaker could pursue independence via discussions with the government and Beijing on law amendment.

A government spokesman countered that the Basic Law ­stipulates any amendment should not be against the central government’s principle policies on Hong Kong, which included that the city is an inalienable part of China. He said law amendment should not be allowed to become a means for reaching the goal of independence.

Meanwhile, Professor Lau ­Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, warned Beijing might use more tactics to control pro-independence people.

He said the central government, facing increasing tension in international affairs and internal conflicts such as in Tibet and Xinjiang, could feel it ­needed to be more ­strong-handed on Hong Kong ­affairs and block localists’ path into Legco.

Hong Kong’s Pledge of Allegiance

August 4, 2016

The government concocts a loyalty oath to block critics from running for office.

Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous speaks to the press in Hong Kong on July 28 to announce he has signed a form saying the city is an "inalienable" part of China, as part of new election rules.
Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous speaks to the press in Hong Kong on July 28 to announce he has signed a form saying the city is an “inalienable” part of China, as part of new election rules. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
The Editorial Board
The Wall Street Journal
Aug. 4, 2016 2:31 p.m. ET

Hong Kong will elect its Legislative Council on Sept. 4, and Beijing is alarmed that among the candidates are young activists with a more confrontational policy toward the mainland. Its solution is to require candidates to sign a loyalty pledge affirming that Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China before they can register to run.

In the past week, election officers have disqualified six candidates for refusing to sign the pledge or, in the case of student activist Edward Leung, for signing it unconvincingly. The 25-year-old Mr. Leung, who ran in a by-election this year and earned 15% of the vote, promised to mute his past support for independence. But officials barred him anyway, citing Facebook posts and media statements as proof he hadn’t “genuinely changed” his stance.

Thirty leading lawyers, including past chairs of the Bar Association, blasted the government in a statement this week. Under Hong Kong law, they wrote, officials don’t have “any power to inquire into the so-called genuineness of the candidates’ declarations, let alone making a subjective and political decision to disqualify a candidate without following any due process on the purported ground that the candidate will not genuinely uphold the Basic Law.” The candidate bans, they added, “are not only unlawful but amount to political censorship and screening.”


As recently as the 75-day pro-democracy demonstrations of 2014, advocating independence for Hong Kong was a fringe position. But the government’s uncompromising response to those protests—and its eagerness to paint critics as radical subversives—made the cause more credible, especially among the young. Disqualifying pro-independence pro-democracy candidates could give the movement a further boost.

Weeks after the protests ended last year, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, used his annual policy address to slam an obscure Hong Kong University journal that wrote about “Hong Kong nationalism.” Copies of the journal quickly sold out and a survey of some 570 students found 28% backing independence, twice as many as the year before. A different, citywide survey this summer asked about independence for the first time and found 17% in favor, though only 4% think the goal is realistic.

Such numbers will rise if the purge of pro-independence candidates escalates into a mainland-style crackdown on “splittism.” The disqualified candidates are heading to court, where they’ll have a strong case that election officials have acted lawlessly.


Hong Kong: Row over election ban on localist escalates as Hong Kong justice minister’s unconvincing explanation backfires

August 3, 2016

Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung argues Edward Leung Tin-kei did not touch on independence when he ran in February by-election

By Jeffie Lam
South China Morning Post

Thursday, August 4, 2016, 12:19am

The row over the barring of a localist leader from next month’s Legislative Council elections intensified yesterday as the Hong Kong justice minister’s explanation backfired and 30 members of the committee that picks the city’s leader jointly questioned the power of electoral officials to make such decisions.

Justice minister Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung waded in to explain that Edward Leung Tin-kei was disqualified from the September 4 elections over his pro-independence views but not last February’s by-election because he did not make “an explicit independence claim” back then.

He was promptly accused of double standards and not doing his homework as Leung countered that he had openly advocated Hong Kong’s independence from China, a fact confirmed by the Post and other media outlets.

The justice chief tried to defend the Electoral Affairs Commission’s decision to disqualify Leung a day after returning officer Cora Ho Lai-sheung invalidated the Hong Kong Indigenous member’s candidacy on the grounds that he had no intention of upholding the Basic Law.

“The returning officer has already explained the argument clearly in her reply, which I think has a legal basis,” Yuen said.

But all 30 members of the legal sub-sector in the 1,200-strong Election Committee that picked Hong Kong’s leader in 2012 hit out in a joint statement yesterday.

They countered that returning officers were not empowered to investigate the “genuineness” of candidates’ declarations to respect the city’s mini-constitution, let alone make “a subjective and political decision to disqualify a candidate without following any due process on the purported ground that the candidate will not genuinely uphold the Basic Law”.

“Such an inquiry and decision are not only unlawful but amount to political censorship and screening by the returning officer without any legal basis,” they said.

The 30 committee members are all either from the pan-democratic camp or linked to it.

The election watchdog sparked uproar last month by imposing a new requirement on Legco candidates to sign an extra form reinforcing acceptance of the city’s status as an inalienable part of China, on top of the standard declaration to uphold the Basic Law.

In a complete U-turn to head off disqualification last week, Leung gave up his campaigning for independence and signed the additional form.

He still ended up being rejected, as the returning officer decided he had not “genuinely changed” his pro-independence stance. At the same time, the watchdog gave 42 lists of candidates from the pan-democratic and localist camps the green light to run even though they refused to sign the new form.

A check by the Post found Leung had promoted independence as early as last December – well before his candidacy for the by-election was validated and gazetted on January 29.

Leung vowed to challenge the ban in court, recalling that he had advocated independence “as a way out” for Hong Kong in a by-election forum before the February poll. “Why didn’t the returning officers immediately disqualify me back then?” he said.

He complained that the ban was tantamount to depriving him of his political rights for life.

“When will they eventually believe I will uphold the Basic Law? In four years or eight years?

Do I have to sign a ‘letter of repentance’ and pledge I won’t call for independence in front of six cameras?”

Chinese University political scientist Dr Ma Ngok said the justice minister’s explanation was “subjective, selective and unconvincing”.

“Many people have touched on independence one way or another but why some of them were qualified but others were not?”

Hong Kong: Declaration document saying Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China is unnecessary, illegal and wrong

August 2, 2016

Sherif Elgebeily says the Electoral Affairs Commission runs the risk of being seen as suppressing dissent with its decision to bar a localist candidate from running


By Sherif Elgebeily
South China Morning Post

Last weekend, the Electoral Affairs Commission decided to invalidate the candidacy of Hong Kong National Party member Chan Ho-tin for the upcoming Legislative Council election. The exact reasons behind this are unclear, but other candidates who also refused to sign a newly imposed declaration form have yet to receive notice on the validity of their candidacies, fuelling concern.

The pledge to uphold the Basic Law is a fundamental part of the eligibility for candidacy, as outlined on the nomination form; it is for this reason that the ineligibility of Democratic Progressive Party of Hong Kong’s Yeung Ke-cheong – who refused to sign the nomination form itself – is legally valid.

Should Chan have been disqualified?

On one level, the additional declaration form is obsolete, as it simply duplicates existing obligations. Worse, it also appears to contravene both the rule of law in Hong Kong and the Basic Law in its effect.

First, there is no legal basis for the demand of an additional form, and the invalidation of candidacy on these grounds is beyond the powers of the commission. Any reference to such a form is absent in the law governing the election procedure; moreover, an exhaustive list of requirements for nomination is provided for under Section 40 of the Legislative Council Ordinance. Any legally enforceable declaration or criteria for the nomination of individuals would require amendments of the existing law, a path which has not been followed.

The commission has no absolute power to create new law

The commission has no absolute power to create new law. The form is also undermined by the commission’s own guidelines, which make mention of five explicit criteria for eligibility of nomination. They do not include the submission of a declaration form. These paradoxes raise alarm over the rule of law in Hong Kong, notably the separation of powers between government bodies and the supremacy of the law in an administrative context.

Second, in disqualifying candidates who are seen to advocate independence, on the grounds of failure to complete the declaration form, the commission has barred popularly supported candidates from representing their supporters. This infringes not only the rights of Hong Kong citizens to be elected, but also that of all citizens to elect their own representatives, and amounts to a violation of Article 26 of the Basic Law. To do so on the grounds of political belief also falls foul of articles 27 and 32 on free speech and the freedom of conscience. It is at best contradictory for the commission to disqualify candidates on the grounds of undermining the Basic Law while violating that document in doing so.

 Edward Leung speaks to the press last month. Leung received votes from some 66,000 Hong Kong people in the New Territories East by-election this year. Photo: AFP

Chan’s disqualification reflects a worrying trend of the regulation of Legco members. By eliminating voices of dissent at the ballot-paper stage, the authorities appear to be telling selected political groups that their opinions are either not welcome or not legitimate.

This rigid stance defies reality in today’s Hong Kong. Not all localist groups can be labelled anomalies. This year, for example, Hong Kong Indigenous’ Edward Leung Tin-kei won nearly 16 per cent of the vote in the New Territories East – over 66,000 voters in real terms. These citizens deserve to be heard.

Perhaps more importantly, voting patterns show that first-time and younger voters have been decidedly more involved in the election process, not only through casting ballots but also standing themselves. A new generation – those born after the handover – have reached voting age, and they care more about the status of Hong Kong and the full realisation of Basic Law freedoms than they do about the platforms that have traditionally formed political manifestos and campaigns. The government has a duty to engage with this demographic.

In essence, the decision to invalidate Legco candidacies over political stances is tantamount to the invalidation of the legitimacy of the voice of the youth today. From both a legal and political standpoint, the declaration form was unnecessary, illegal and threatens the future of the rule of law in Hong Kong.

Sherif Elgebeily (@selgebeily) is Bingham Centre International Rule of Law Visiting Fellow 2016, and a lecturer with the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law

The Bingham Centre is a part of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law

Hong Kong: Pro-China Election Rules Changes Again Bring Out The Protesters

August 2, 2016
Anyone running for the legislature must sign a document pledging to support the notion that Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China — If you don’t sign, you cannot be part of the election….
By Reuters
Tuesday, 2 August 2016 14:53 GMT

* Candidates must sign form rejecting independence stance

* Opponents say that is assault on democracy

* Four candidates disqualified so far

By Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Dozens of masked demonstrators tried to force their way into an electoral meeting in Hong Kong on Tuesday to protest against a new bar on anyone running for the legislature who refuses to declare the territory an “inalienable” part of China.

They were among hundreds of protesters gathered outside the meeting, a briefing for prospective parliamentarians, shouting for Hong Kong’s independence.

Inside the venue, some candidates who had been approved to run for election protested the decision to disqualify others.

Members of the League of Social Democrats and People Power tried several times to charge the stage and take the microphone before being pushed back by security, forcing the meeting to be suspended at least three times.

Politicians from other pro-democracy parties chanted: “No more political elimination!” and “Defend a fair election!”

The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) said last month that potential candidates for the September Legislative Council election must sign an additional “confirmation form” declaring Hong Kong an inalienable part of China and acknowledging that advocating independence could disqualify them from the election.

Hong Kong has greater freedoms than mainland China and separate laws that were guaranteed for 50 years as part of a “one country, two systems” framework negotiated with the British when they handed back their former colony.

But there has been political unrest in recent years centring on Beijing’s refusal to allow fully democratic elections and its perceived meddling in the special administrative region.

Beijing’s top official in Hong Kong came out in support of the EAC’s new form while three Hong Kong politicians filed a request for an urgent judicial review.

So far the EAC has rejected four candidates. Activists have posted personal attacks on some of the EAC officers responsible for the decision, actions that the Hong Kong government has condemned.

Edward Leung Tin-kei, who was rejected as a candidate by the EAC on Tuesday, responded by saying the city was ruled by a “dictatorship”, local broadcaster RTHK reported.

Leung, a leader of the group Hong Kong Indigenous was one of the first street activists to move into mainstream politics when he won an unexpected 15 percent of the vote in a February legislative by-election.

He had signed the EAC’s confirmation form, saying his top priority was to get elected. (Writing by Clare Baldwin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)