Legislative Council elections 2016

Disqualifying localist Legco candidates lets politics ‘eat into’ legal system, former Bar Association chair says

Edward Chan King-sang says courts, not electoral officials, should make calls on whether candidates faked pledges

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 11:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 11:24pm

The government’s decision to disqualify localist candidates from running in next month’s ­Legislative Council elections will have a “long and deep” negative impact on Hong Kong’s legal system, former Bar Association chairman Edward Chan ­King-sang said yesterday.

Chan’s comments came as outgoing lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing of the Democratic Party, wrote a letter yesterday to the Human Rights Committee under the United Nations about the “disturbing development”, ­condemning the rejections and calling on the committee to “take urgent action”.

Electoral officials had cited the candidates’ pro-independence stance as against the Basic Law, and that they did not “genuinely” respect and uphold the mini-constitution even after some had signed a declaration stating so.

Lawyers question power of returning officers to disqualify Hong Kong poll candidates

Chan said if supporting Hong Kong independence was a crime and candidates were found guilty by the court, they could be disqualified even after they were elected.

Therefore it should also be up to the court, not electoral officers, to decide whether candidates had faked their pledges.

“[Faking pledges] is a very ­serious accusation,” said Chan in a Commercial Radio programme. “The legal system should be the one to decide whether candidates are guilty of this.”

Chan claimed officials and civil servants, who did not have legal power and should be objective, were letting politics “eat into” the legal system by bypassing it and passing judgment ­themselves.

Six pro-independence candidates, including Edward Leung Tin-kei of Hong Kong Indigenous, were disqualified from the September 4 elections by the Electoral Affairs Commission. A recent survey showed Leung could have won a seat if he had been allowed to run.

The city’s justice chief Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung on Wednesday defended the commission’s ­decisions, saying the returning ­officer’s call to invalidate Leung because she felt he had no intention of upholding the Basic Law, “had a legal basis”.

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But Chan said the law is ­allowed to be amended and a person could uphold the law while wanting to change it. He added it could be argued that a lawmaker could pursue independence via discussions with the government and Beijing on law amendment.

A government spokesman countered that the Basic Law ­stipulates any amendment should not be against the central government’s principle policies on Hong Kong, which included that the city is an inalienable part of China. He said law amendment should not be allowed to become a means for reaching the goal of independence.

Meanwhile, Professor Lau ­Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, warned Beijing might use more tactics to control pro-independence people.

He said the central government, facing increasing tension in international affairs and internal conflicts such as in Tibet and Xinjiang, could feel it ­needed to be more ­strong-handed on Hong Kong ­affairs and block localists’ path into Legco.