By Joyce Lim
Hong Kong Correspondent
The Straits Times
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By Jeffie Lam
The South China Morning Post
Former Basic Law Drafting Committee member slams move to pre-empt decision by Hong Kong court over oath-taking controversy
A pan-democratic legal heavyweight has accused Beijing of using the oath-taking saga as an excuse to take away the power of the city’s judicial and legislative branches.
Martin Lee Chu-ming SC, who once helped draft the Basic Law in the late 1980s, also said it would be problematic if Beijing granted the legislature’s secretary general the power to invalidate lawmakers’ oaths by interpreting the city’s mini-constitution.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) is set to endorse a draft interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law, which relates to the oaths taken by lawmakers, in a bid to disqualify two pro-independence lawmakers who used derogatory language referencing China when they took their oaths last month. The draft interpretation is likely to prescribe the format and conduct for lawmakers who are swearing in and the consequences of non-compliance.
Lee criticised Beijing’s attempt to pre-empt a decision by the Hong Kong court, which has still to deliver its judgment after hearing arguments in the case where the government sought to disqualify Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching last week.
“[With its interpretation], the NPCSC is trying to take away the [local] courts’ right to handle such important cases in future,” Lee said, adding that the courts would then have no choice but to rule based on the interpretation.
The senior counsel also accused Beijing of taking away the power of the Legislative Council by unnecessarily intervening in the matter.
“Article 104 states that the lawmakers must take the oath in accordance with the law, which we already have at the local level. We can amend it if it is not clear enough,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lee also said it would make no sense for Beijing to confirm that the Legco secretary general, who is charged with administrative issues, had the power to invalidate oaths through the interpretation.
“He is just a clerk,” Lee said. “I’m sure the post will be taken by a Communist Party member in future.”
The founding chairman of the Democratic Party was making these arguments as he crossed swords with Tam Yiu-chung, a pro-establishment veteran, on RTHK’s City Forum yesterday.
Former lawmaker Tam, who is from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, defended Beijing’s move as “timely and necessary”. Tam, who was a member of the Basic Law Drafting Committee alongside Lee, said the clarification “would benefit Hong Kong society and help stamp out pro-independence sentiments”.
When asked if the draft ruling by Beijing amounted to a new local law, he argued the Basic Law’s articles stated only fundamental principles and that the NPCSC had the right to clearly explain legislative intent.
Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu yesterday quoted the late Li Hou, secretary general of the Basic Law Drafting Committee, as saying that it was Beijing’s intention to draft the city’s mini-constitution in broad terms to enable the central government to interpret the articles in future.
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South China Morning Post
Sunday, May 8, 2016
The central government fears cross-border relations could be destabilised if growing calls for independence are not curbed, according to an academic at a Beijing-backed think tank.
Speaking on RTHK yesterday, Professor Lau Siu-kai, a vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said at the moment Beijing did not consider the movement a significant political force that needed to be taken seriously.
But he stressed: “In principle and emotionally, the central government cannot accept advocacy for independence and self-determination … That’s because they challenge the country’s sovereignty and unity.”
With Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, scheduled to visit Hong Kong for three days this month, there has been speculations whether the state leader will comment on the recent rise in calls for the city’s independence.
Lau dismissed such suggestions. “I believe Zhang Dejiang’s visit is to strengthen the relationship between Hong Kong and the mainland, and to instil confidence in Hongkongers in the city’s future … not to create clashes or trigger resistance,” he said.
Zhang will be the first state leader to visit the city since 2012. He is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at the Belt and Road Summit at the Convention and Exhibition Centre on May 18.
Lau also said he did not believe Zhang would comment on the chief executive election scheduled for next March.
“Talking about this now, particularly in disclosing any message from the central government, could make the political situation even more chaotic or bring up even more protests,” he said.
On Commercial Radio , former lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah, founder of the Path of Democracy think tank, said cross-border tensions were caused by two factors.
On the one hand, he said the central government believed Hongkongers, particularly pan-democrats, did not respect its sovereignty in the city.
On the other, the pan-democratic camp had been slamming the central government for neglecting the core values of Hong Kong.
“If Beijing, especially when [Zhang] visits Hong Kong, could talk more about defending core values, or if the pan-democratic camp … could show more respect to Beijing’s sovereignty … I believe this could help resolve problems,” he said.
Tong criticised calls for self-determination, saying it was unclear what the advocates wanted.
“If they want [self-determination] within the [current] constitutional framework, then how is that different from fighting for democracy?”
Tong said that if advocates for self-determination rejected the “one country, two systems” principle, it would be no different from calling for independence.
By Violet Law
The Los Angeles Times
ng Kong has been rocked by a new generation of activists who stake their future in the former British colony turned semiautonomous Chinese territory.
Known as the localists, the activists bristle at Beijing’s meddling and what they see as their government prioritizing Communist Chinese Party mandates over local concerns.
They have emerged as a social and political force in recent months, ending a police crackdown on street food vendors and taking 13% of the vote in a recent race for a seat in Hong Kong’s legislature.
“When people hear we’re localists, they immediately think we’re troublemakers,” said Kwong Po-yin, an emergency room doctor, local politician and member of the recently formed political party Youngspiration. “Of course we aim to rock the boat because we want to make our society better.”
Who are the localists?
Some are preservationists who rally against the destruction of colonial British heritage sites. Others are environmentalists who defend dying villages against the juggernaut of developers. A few are legislators who have shored up their base on the platform that the interests of locals come first. Many more are pro-democracy agitators who hope the populist banner would help broaden support for their cause.
Localist Edward Leung arrives in court in April to face charges of rioting after Hong Kong officials tried to clear illegal street hawkers from the busy commercial neighborhood of Mong Kok. (Isaac Lawrence / AFP/Getty Images)
Politically, they span a wide spectrum — from legislators from the so-called pan-democratic camp who condemn the use of violence to militant secessionists who vow to advance their agenda “by any means necessary.”
What they share is a vision of the future in which Hong Kong parts ways with mainland China.
Most attribute Hong Kong’s social woes to the lack of a fully democratic government. Unlike their parents, few harbor hopes for a democratic China, so they increasingly see separation as the only feasible way out.
What are the localists’ demands?
Localists of varying stripes all say they take aim at government policies that serve the interests of Beijing rather than Hong Kong.
Many of their causes — including the rule of law and the protection of civil liberties — resonate with a population that sees Hong Kong’s core values as being under threat.
Although localists say they welcome anybody who adapts to the culture of Hong Kong — where 38% of the 7.3 million residents are immigrants — some accuse newcomers from the mainland of depleting scarce resources. Localists have heckled mainland tourists and protested against the teaching of Mandarin in grade schools. Mandarin is spoken on the mainland while Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong.
At the very least they believe in their right to self-determination. Some advocate for independence.
“We think independence affords the best protection for our freedoms,” said Marcus Lau, a University of Hong Kong sophomore who last month edited a campus magazine issue devoted to the territory’s prospects as an autonomous state.
Why do the localists think they have a case for self-determination, or even independence?
Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule 19 years ago under a provisional framework known as “one country, two systems,” in which the territory was promised a high degree of autonomy until 2047, when it is to be governed under one system: communism.
The localists have reached into history and learned what they were never taught in school: In 1960, the United Nations passed a resolution that included Hong Kong on a list of dependent territories entitled to self-determination and independence. It was removed from the list in 1972 under pressure from China, which had just gained recognition as a member nation.
Why are the localists gaining strength?
Two years ago, the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement failed to win the right for Hong Kong residents to elect a leader who did not have to answer to Beijing. The appeal of the localists has been spreading since.
“They have created a kind of ‘Hong Kong nationalism’ to counteract the nationalism that Beijing has tried to impose on Hong Kongers,” said Alan Tse, a Chinese University of Hong Kong researcher who has studied the rise of localism.
Some localists believe that one way to change the government is to join it. Several are gearing up for the Legislative Council race this fall.
How has Beijing responded?
Communist Chinese officials have condemned militant localists as separatists, a label typically reserved for enemies of the state.
At a public address in Hong Kong in March, an official from China’s Foreign Ministry said “some radical groups are making waves under the localist banner … and planning to organize themselves into political parties. The separatism idea is metastasizing.”
“Beijing is feeling the pinch, and the dilemma,” said Dixon Ming Sing, a political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “It wants to nip [independence] in the bud, yet Hong Kong’s system affords the freedom of speech to broach the subject.”
“This is a very delicate and potentially dangerous situation,” he said.
Law is a special correspondent.
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Win for Chow in today’s by-election would mean Beijing loyalist majority in both halves of house
By Stuart Lau
South China Morning Post
It is “beyond doubt” the Hong Kong government will ask the legislature to rewrite internal rules to limit filibuster if Holden Chow Ho-ding wins the by-election today and helps the pro-establishment camp get a majority, an ex-minister has said.
“How would the government give up the golden chance?,”former secretary for the civil service Wong Wing-ping told the Sunday Morning Post a day ahead of the New Territories East poll. “That will be the only chance for the government to amend the rules and procedures as it is unlikely for the pro-establishment camp to get a geographical constituency majority in the [general] election in September.”
If Chow, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, beats pro-democracy rivals Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, of the Civic Party, and Edward Leung Tin-kei, of Hong Kong Indigenous, more than half of the 35 geographical constituency seats will be controlled by the pro-establishment camp.
Together with the functional constituency majority, it is now possible for any changes to the Legislative Council rules of procedure to be affirmed by the majority of lawmakers from both halves of the house.
Most pan-democrats have worried that if the filibuster rules were limited, they would lose what they regarded as their “most powerful ammunition against legislative tyranny”.
While pro-establishment veterans have called it unlikely for the government to seek a rule rewrite – an apparent move to calm worries that might boost votes sympathetic to the pan-democratic camp – Wong said the grounds they used were irrelevant.
For example, it would be wrong to suggest that the legislature lacked time to do such an amendment. While it is true that other government motions would take priority before the current Legco session ends in July, the chief executive could exercise his constitutional power to order an emergency meeting to change the rule before the formation of the new Legco in September, Wong said.
It is also suggested that the government would restrain from doing so for fear that pan-democrats would take advantage of public sympathy and gain more seats in September. But Wong questioned the claim as the room for pan-democrats to get a landslide victory was very slim.
Four other candidates are running: Nelson Wong Sing-chi of Third Side and non-affiliated Christine Fong Kwok-shan, Albert Leung Sze-ho, and Lau Chi-shing.
400 voters with suspicious or false residential addresses could be “the tip of the iceberg”.
By Ng Kang-chung
South China Morning Post
Two pan-democratic parties today lodged further complaints with the election watchdog about the records of more than 400 voters with suspicious or false residential addresses, warning that they were “the tip of the iceberg”.
The cases reported by the Labour Party and Civic Party to the Registration and Electoral Office follow similar complaints by the Democratic Party and Civic Party last week, including that unknown people had used residents’ home addresses to register for voting in November’s district council elections.
In some of the new cases, voters were found to have registered addresses that do not exist. Other cases saw seven or eight voters registered as living in the same 300sqm flat.
Mak Tak-ching of the Labour Party said such irregularities were spotted in constituencies in Tsuen Wan, Hung Hom and other districts, involving some 300 voters.
“We believe it is only the tip of the iceberg. The electoral office should take it seriously and proactively launch an investigation,” he said.
Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Mo-ching, whose party also reported 29 suspicious cases in Mei Foo Sun Chuen, warned that the irregularities could erode people’s confidence in the election system.
Today is the last day for voters to check and update their particulars in order to vote in the upcoming district council elections. Voters should report any change in their details to the office.
A spokesman for the office said it would look into the complaints.
The South China Morning Post has previously reported on voters claiming they live in hotel rooms that no longer exist, the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui and three parks.
A person who gives false or misleading information for voter registration faces up to six months in jail and a HK$5,000 fine. Scores of people were convicted of registering false addresses to vote in a constituency they did not belong to in 2011.