Hong Kong National Party convenor disqualified from running in Legislative Council polls
Chan Ho-tin said he received an email from the Electoral Affairs Commission on Saturday which said his application to join the election in New Territories West had been “invalidated”
A member of the separatist Hong Kong National Party has been disqualified from running in next month’s Legislative Council elections, sparking speculation that others who hold pro-independence views could be disqualified.
Chan Ho-tin, whose candidacy was invalidated by the city’s election watchdog on Saturday, is one of a number of localists who refused to sign a recently introduced additional declaration form which reinforces acknowledgement that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China.
Those who oppose it see the controversial requirement as a tool to censor political thought and suppress the right to stand for election. It’s validity is already the subject of a legal challenge by three potential election candidates.
Some legal experts expressed worries over the government’s move and questioned its legitimacy, while some political commentators saw it as a political decision made by the government to test the public’s reaction on disqualifying pro-independence candidates.
Chan was one of the eight radical localists whose bids had yet to be accepted as of Friday.
Of them, only Chan received an email from the Electoral Affairs Commission on Saturday which said his application to join the election in the New Territories West constituency had been “invalidated”.
Seven others whose fate was still uncertain included a member of Youngspiration, and five from the alliance formed by Civic Passion, Proletariat Political Institute and Hong Kong Resurgence Order.
Edward Leung Tin-kei of Hong Kong Indigenous also had not heard from the election watchdog even though he made a U-turn on Thursday, signing the new form and dropping his pro-independence stance to avoid disqualification.
Chan said he would fight back by seeking both a judicial review and a future election petition.
“The National Party is honoured to become the first party to be banned from joining a democratic election by the government due to political difference,” the party wrote on its Facebook page as it announced the latest development. It urged other parties that support democracy to boycott the election as the move “has violated the Basic Law”.
City University political analyst James Sung Lap- kung said he was not surprised that the party, which clearly advocates the separation of Hong Kong from China, was the first to be targeted by the government “to test the water”.
“This is to test the public’s reaction before deciding how they should handled other applicants,” Sung said. “I would not rule out more radicals being disqualified.”
Eric Cheung Tat-ming, a legal scholar from the University of Hong Kong, said it was worrying that the government had deviated from its established ways of handling election nominations.
Returning officers, tasked to confirm potential candidates’ commitment to the “one country, two systems” principle, were only used to conducting administrative duties, he said, but now they were being “subjective” in making political decisions on candidates’ eligibility.
“I’m worried that with the start of this case, the role of the returning officer will be different,” Cheung said. “Now the officer has to differentiate whether the declaration is true or not. This is a very big problem.”
Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung agreed, suggesting the decision to invalidate a nomination should be made by a committee based on objective standards rather than by a single person.
Cheung was also concerned whether Beijing would use this chance to reinterpret the law.
But barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a moderate pro-democracy figure, said the decision was in accordance with the law, which was “clear with no grey area” that advocating Hong Kong’s independence went against the Legislative Council Ordinance.
A government spokesman backed the invalidation decision made by the returning officers who “have the duty as well as power to make those decisions according to the relevant electoral laws”. “Independence [of Hong Kong] is inconsistent with the constitutional and legal status ... stipulated in the Basic Law, as well as the established basic policies of the PRC regarding Hong Kong,” he said.
“Upholding the Basic Law is a basic legal duty of a legislator. If a person advocates or promotes the independence of the HKSAR, he cannot possibly uphold the Basic Law or fulfil his duties as a legislator,” he said.
The Electoral Affairs Commission said its officers had made the decision in accordance with the law, and the watchdog would not comment as it did not have legal powers to make such a decision.
About 100 people joined a rally in Tamar park to support Chan on Saturday night.
Separately, a group of pan-democrats held a gathering outside the Chief Executive’s Office to protest against Chan’s disqualification.