‘This is the court’s decision to make’: Rita Fan weighs in on Legco rule targeting Hong Kong pro-independence candidates
Hong Kong’s sole deputy to Standing Committee of national legislative body calls controversial new form ‘reasonable’
Hong Kong courts, rather than Beijing, should make their own judgment on the controversial new electoral rules targeting independence advocates, the city’s sole deputy to the Standing Committee of China’s top legislature said on Tuesday.
Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai dismissed the idea of any interference from Beijing, speaking a day before the High Court on Wednesday afternoon was to hear from three aspiring candidates for September’s Legislative Council elections challenging the legality of the changed rules.
“The court will make a judgment with its wisdom and professional knowledge,” Fan said.
“If the court is unclear about some clauses of the Basic Law and wants to hear other opinions, it can ask the Standing Committee at any time. But this is the court’s decision to make.”
The Beijing loyalist added that the right to stand in elections as stated in the Basic Law “cannot overrule” the reality of Hong Kong being a part of China.
On Wednesday, the court is to hear two cases: one filed by independence advocate Edward Leung Tin-kei who is eyeing a seat in New Territories East; and the other by two pan-democrats. Both relate to the new “confirmation form” that the Electoral Affairs Commission is asking all candidates to sign.
The new form – a supplement to the standard declaration – asks candidates to specifically acknowledge three parts of the Basic Law stating Hong Kong as an inalienable part of China. The standard declaration only asks aspirants to uphold the Basic Law.
The three litigants have argued the new requirement censors political beliefs and that returning officers have no right to invalidate nominations based on a candidates’ views.
To sign the declaration on one hand while advocating independence on the other would be “contradictory”, Fan added.
Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, disagreed that the courts were free to consult the NPC Standing Committee over the cases.
He said the Basic Law stipulated that the Court of Final Appeal should approach the Standing Committee only over affairs which were the responsibility of the central government, or concerning the relationship between Hong Kong and central authorities. Eligibility to run for Legco was a domestic affair and did not fall under that remit, Cheung said.
Two other localist candidates, who received follow-up enquiries from returning officers asking them to clarify their stance on independence, responded differently on Tuesday.
Alvin Cheng Kam-mun of Civic Passion replied that he would not advocate independence as a Legco candidate, although he would support the cause on a personal level.
Cheng, running for a Hong Kong Island seat, argued that since his platform was a call for the mini-constitution to be revised and “extended indefinitely”, his commitment to the Basic Law was clear.
“The returning officer is truly the one violating the Basic Law by screening candidates,” he said.
In his reply, the Hong Kong National Party’s Chan Ho-tin refused to answer the returning officer’s question on whether he supported Hong Kong independence, only stressing his right to stand for election.
The election commission has validated some candidates from pan-democratic parties who did not sign the new form.
Other candidates running in Edward Leung’s constituency, New Territories East, are:
Lam Cheuk-ting, Yung Hoi-yan, Christine Fong Kwok-shan, Dominic Lee Tsz-king, Elizabeth Quat, Cheung Chiu-hung, Gary Fan Kwok-wai, Chan Hak-kan, Hau Chi-keung, Tang Ka-piu, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Leung Kwok-hung, Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, Raymond Mak Ka-chun, Leticia Lee See-yin, and Liu Tin-shing.
Also running in Alvin Cheng’s constituency, Hong Kong Island, are:
Hui Chi-fung, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, Kwok Wai-keung, Cheung Kwok-kwan, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Paulus Johannes Zimmerman, Ricky Wong Wai-kay, Tanya Chan, Shum Chee-chiu, Gary Wong Chi-him, Christopher Lau Gar-hung, and Cyd Ho Sau-lan.
Also running in Andy Chan Ho-tin’s constituency, New Territories West, are:
Chan Han-pan, Ho Kwan-yiu, Wong Chun-kit, Frederick Fung Kin-kee, Chow Wing-kan, Michael Tien Puk-sun, Leung Che-cheung, Wong Yun-tat, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, Kwok Ka-ki, Alice Mak Mei-kuen, Andrew Wan Siu-kin, Wong Ho-ming, Lee Cheuk-yan and Tong Wing-chi.