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Hong Kong localism and independence

‘Hong Kong can deal with it’: academic says city can resolve issue of independence advocates being barred from Legco elections

Qi Pengfei says no need to refer case to NPC Standing Committee

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2016, 5:41pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 12:08pm

The controversy over Hong Kong independence advocates being kicked off the ballot in Legislative Council elections is unlikely to prompt an interpretation of the Basic Law by the nation’s top legislature, according to a leading mainland expert on the city’s affairs.

Qi Pengfei, director of Renmin University’s research centre on Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, said the row over the disqualifications could be resolved by the Hong Kong legal system.

But he said on Tuesday that enacting national security legislation would be an urgent task for whoever becomes chief executive next year.

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“At this moment, I don’t see the need for the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to make an interpretation of the Basic Law,” he said.

Qi’s comments came a day after Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung stressed the government had no plan to ask the Standing Committee to interpret the law and head off a looming legal battle.

Election officials disqualified Edward Leung Tin-kei of the Hong Kong Indigenous, Hong Kong National Party convenor Chan Ho-tin and four other localists because of their pro-independence stances.

Critics said the disqualifications amounted to political screening.

Leung and Chan vowed to submit election petitions challenging the rejection.

Over the past few days, the legal sector and pan-democrats have expressed fears that the Standing Committee would invoke its power to interpret the Basic Law to make sure independence advocates would be kept permanently out of Legco.

A mainland legal expert familiar with the Basic Law, who declined to be named, said the application of electoral law in Hong Kong – not the Basic Law – was at issue.

“Generally speaking, the Standing Committee does not interpret the laws of Hong Kong,” the expert said.

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But Qi said restarting the electoral reform process and enacting laws to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law to prohibit sedition or Hong Kong independence would be two “unavoidable tasks for the administration whose tenure starts next year.”

“Existing laws in Hong Kong are unable to address advocacy for independence in a comprehensive and thorough manner,” the academic said.

Speaking on RTHK on Tuesday morning, Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies – the central government’s top think tank on Hong Kong – said the central and local governments were behind returning officers’ decisions to disqualify localists from the elections.

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“How many people in Hong Kong really believe those returning officers made all the decisions and took action on their own? ” he asked.

Lau stressed that if independence advocates were elected, the city’s internal political order, as well as its relationship with Beijing, would be seriously affected.

“If the central government does not suppress the pro-independence ideas right now, it would become a big trouble for it in the future,” he said.

Additional reporting by Owen Fung