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Legislative Council elections 2016

Jasper Tsang joins Hong Kong justice secretary in defending disqualification of localist Legco candidates

Pro-Beijing heavyweight claims civil servants implemented legal requirement

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 August, 2016, 2:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 August, 2016, 2:31pm

Hong Kong’s outgoing legislative president has defended the decision to disqualify six localist candidates from the coming elections, saying the move was legal even as political considerations were involved.

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing’s remarks came after the Electoral Affairs Commission threw out the Legislative Council bids by Hong Kong Indigenous’ Edward Leung Tin-kei and five other pro-independence candidates.

Leung had earlier made a complete U-turn by dropping his pro-independence stance, but his returning officer still decided that the localist had not “genuinely changed” his position.

Row over election ban on localist escalates as Hong Kong justice minister’s explanation backfires

Speaking to the press on Thursday, Tsang said the returning officers’ decision to disqualify the six was legal as he stated calling for Hong Kong to split from the mainland was inconsistent with the Basic Law as well as contrary to the principle of “one country, two systems”.

If the law forbids anyone advocating independence from becoming a candidate, it is the duty of a civil servant to implement that legal requirement
Jasper Tsang Yok-sing

“Of course [their disqualification] was political,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean that because it’s a political issue, it cannot be dealt with in accordance with the law.”

The pro-Beijing heavyweight maintained that the returning officers were impartial, arguing they had acted in accordance with the rules and the law.

“If the law forbids anyone advocating independence from becoming a candidate, it is the duty of a civil servant to implement that legal requirement,” he said.

On Wednesday, all 30 members of the legal sub-sector in the 1,200-strong Election Committee that picked Hong Kong’s leader in 2012 criticised the government for barring individuals from entering the race based on their political stance.

In their joint statement, they stressed that returning officers were not empowered to make such a “subjective and political decision”.

View: Legislative Council elections 2016 candidates

Tsang said that while he recognised the issue was contentious, he noted that many local lawyers had also defended the government’s move.

“There are well-respected lawyers in Hong Kong, including the secretary for justice, who have argued, I believe, cogently, forcefully, that the decision is entirely legal,” he said.