Edward Chan King-sang says courts, not electoral officials, should make calls on whether candidates faked pledges
By Shirley Zhao
South China Morning Post
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.
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: Candidates banned from standing for election in Hong Kong because they are advocating a split from mainland China led the city’s first pro-independence rally on Friday (Aug 5) as tension over the upcoming vote escalates.
Five pro-independence candidates who tried to register were rejected by election officials who said their stance went against Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
Critics have slammed the move as censorship as fears grow over Beijing interference in the semi-autonomous city in a range of areas, from politics to media and education.
A park near the government’s harbourfront headquarters filled with thousands of supporters through Friday evening.
Andy Chan (C), 25, leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party and a disqualified candidate of upcoming elections, gives a press conference at the start of a rally near the government’s headquarters in Hong Kong on August 5, 2016. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace)
Most sat calmly on the grass, many of them holding “Hong Kong Independence” placards and flags, as they listened to activists speak.
They applauded as banned candidate Edward Leung, the leader of new party Hong Kong Indigenous who is gaining a growing following, addressed the crowds.
“Hong Kong’s sovereignty does not belong to (Chinese President) Xi Jinping, does not belong to the authorities, and does not belong to the Hong Kong government. It belongs to the Hong Kong people,” said Leung.
Protester Satomi Cheng, a 49-year-old office manager, said many in the city were angry about China’s tightening grip. “Day by day our human rights … are taken away by the Hong Kong government and the Chinese government,” she told AFP.
Some acknowledged that independence was a pipe dream in the face of a powerful Beijing, but said the city was running out of options. “China has destroyed Hong Kong politics … we are supporting freedom and democracy,” said student Clayton Chow, 19.
Andy Chan, 25, leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party and a disqualified candidate, said the rally was a chance to talk about the future.
Pro-independence activists including Chan have previously advocated violence – he said they had now decided that would not work. “We don’t want people to get hurt or arrested, so we want to start with a public meeting and hopefully it will be a healthy path for us to get stronger,” he told AFP.
As Chan wrapped up the rally he shouted “Hong Kong Independence”, a chant echoed back to him by the jubilant crowd.
NO MORE TABOO
The idea of independence is dismissed as illegal by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities, and was a taboo subject until recent months, when new parties emerged campaigning for a breakaway.
They evolved out of the “localist” movement of mainly young campaigners disappointed after mass rallies in 2014, known as the Umbrella Movement, failed to win concessions from China on political reform.
Localist groups are pushing for more autonomy for Hong Kong and characterise it as culturally separate from the mainland.
Some localists do not advocate independence, but are instead pushing for self-determination for Hong Kong, an idea which has taken root among other pro-democracy campaigners.
Demosisto, a new party set up by Umbrella Movement activists including well-known campaigner Joshua Wong, has made self-determination its central platform, although it does not cast itself as a localist organisation.
Those calling for self-determination have been allowed to stand in September’s legislative vote.
The ban on activists supporting a complete break from the mainland has triggered widespread anger across the pro-democracy camp. Thirty leading lawyers also came out against the move.
But Jasper Tsang, the outgoing president of the city’s legislature, insisted it was legal. “The government and people from all walks of life don’t want to see the election becoming a stage for promoting Hong Kong independence,” he told reporters.
Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 under an agreement that protects its freedoms for 50 years, but concern is growing that those liberties are disappearing.
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