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Legislative Council elections 2016

Blame officials’ lack of faith in Hong Kong voters for Legco election declaration form row

Alice Wu says by imposing a redundant requirement on aspiring lawmakers, the government is making the same mistake it did with political reform – overreacting and alienating the masses

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 August, 2016, 10:31am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 August, 2016, 5:36pm

I realise that the phrase “Your word is your bond” has been overused lately. But given the circumstances in Hong Kong, it seems appropriate to be reminded of what it means. It’s about honouring your word, and honouring the trust of those who you have given your word to. It cannot be imposed, which is exactly what is wrong with the controversial declaration form the Electoral Affairs Commission asked aspiring lawmakers to sign.

While the legality of it should be left to our courts, it’s impossible to ignore the few things that are a cause for anxiety.

Let the courts decide on legality of screening Legco candidates

The commission’s naiveté is astounding. Nagging must be the worst form of communication and the additional declaration requirement is nagging of the paper-pushing kind. By requiring aspiring candidates to sign what is essentially a redundant declaration on their willingness to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the SAR, it has unnecessarily opened a can of worms.

The logic behind it is convoluted at best. When someone upholds the Basic Law, he or she upholds it in its entirety. If the commission cannot trust the signatories’ word, a second declaration has no effect. When someone doesn’t treat their word as their bond, no amount of paperwork will change that fact. It is precisely because of this that Edward Leung Tin-kei’s nomination was rejected. There is no reason to believe that making Leung sign an additional form would elicit his change of heart about independence.

How the ban on Hong Kong localist leader Edward Leung could tip the balance in Legco elections

The complete breakdown in basic trust is worrying. While there is little surprise that the government finds pro-independence advocates untrustworthy, it is very unfortunate that it has decided to treat all voters as untrustworthy, too. If the government truly believes that only a small group of people are advocating independence, then why would voters not be trusted to keep them out of the Legislative Council?

If the commission cannot trust the signatories’ word, a second declaration has no effect

If anything, this works against the government’s and Beijing’s intentions. All that talk about building trust and having faith in “one country, two systems” turns out to mean very little.

And it’s too bad they are making the same mistake they did with constitutional reform. Preoccupied with Occupy Central, they marginalised the moderates. And reform became out of the question the moment the National People’s Congress Standing Committee decided to fight Occupiers with its white paper on “one country, two systems”. That gave many more ordinary Hongkongers a reason to head onto the streets.

We are now witnessing the same sort of misjudgment. By focusing on fighting the pro-independence few, the rest of Hong Kong has been sacrificed. It will push more people to sympathise, support and even vote for the few independence advocates left in the contest. Again, our judicial system has been put in the hot seat.

Some people love being instigators. Instead of appealing to people’s hearts and minds, the government is responding to instigators in a way that strengthens them and alienates the masses. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying blames our legislature’s proportional representation electoral system for encouraging radical positions, but the system can’t be blamed for everything.

We now have to worry not just about a dysfunctional political system, but also the collapse of the “one country, two systems” principle. If voters cannot be trusted to believe in the basic premise of our Basic Law, which is that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China, then we are in dire straits. Without trust, we have no future.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA