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Legislative Council elections 2016

Softly, softly: Hong Kong localist candidates play it coy on independence issues

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 August, 2016, 12:58pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 August, 2016, 1:15am

Localists running in the Legislative Council elections adopted a cautious approach at election forums on Saturday when they were asked about their stance on Hong Kong independence.

They were careful in their use of words as six independence advocates have been disqualified from the elections and the government has warned that candidates speaking in favour of separatism could face criminal liability for making false declarations submitted along with their nominations.

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On a forum for the New Territories East constituency organised by Television Broadcasts, pro-government candidate Leticia Lee See-yin took aim at Horace Chin Wan-kan, dubbed “godfather of Hong Kong localism”.

“Did you receive instructions from [Kowloon West candidate] Wong Yuk-man to press for independence?” Lee asked.

Chin said he was merely proposing amending certain articles to protect Hongkongers’ interests and continuing “one country, two systems” beyond its expiry year in 2047.

“Sustaining the Basic Law does not amount to advocating independence,” Chin replied.

The former Lingnan University associate professor’s book Hong Kong as a City State has inspired localist groups. While he previously spoke about fighting to elevate Hong Kong’s status and even achieve “one country, two seats” in the United Nations, he had not used the word “independence” in his election materials.

Controversy has centred on the disqualification of the six pro-independence candidates. Returning officers who made the decisions say the aspirants’ political stance would contravene the Basic Law. But critics say they have been acting contrary to the law and with no respect to constitutional rights to stand for election and freedom of speech.

At the same forum, Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang, who is running “on behalf of” disqualified candidate Edward Leung Tin-kei, also exercised restraint in explaining his manifesto.

The Youngspiration candidate said he only wanted to discuss “Hong Kong’s future beyond 2047”, but didn’t elaborate. Instead he chose to query pro-Beijing rivals over their stance on national security legislation.

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Meanwhile, local housing officials have refused to allow a localist running in Kowloon East to put leaflets advocating independence in residents’ mailboxes in public housing estates.

The Housing Department said late on Friday night that it had consulted he Department of Justice and decided that the contents of Chan Chak-to’s leaflets could “contravene department policy”.

A Housing Department policy document says materials containing indecent, defamatory, unlawful or profit-making content may not be placed in the mailboxes of its residents, but the department did not say which category Chan’s leaflets fell into.

Chan told the media he received phone calls from housing estate managers telling him he could not proceed because of the words “Hong Kong independence” in his election materials.

Chan was not a high-profile independence advocate until after his candidacy was validated. He raised eyebrows last week when he shared his political beliefs at a radio election forum.

“They don’t have the power to censor my materials and restrict my freedom,” Chan said.

For a full list of candidates, please see http://multimedia.scmp.com/legcocandidates/