Legco secretariat slammed over handling of presidential election
Questions raised over why Andrew Leung’s nationality was not questioned ahead of election day, but secretariat says it ‘did not require’ such information
The Legislative Council secretariat has come under fire for failing to vet the nationality of Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen when he submitted his bid for presidency, leaving him to secure official proof that he was no longer a British citizen on election day.
A day after the pro-Beijing stalwart won the seat 38 votes to 0 at the Legco’s inaugural meeting – amid a walkout of the democratic camp – the secretariat faced blame as a timeline of Leung’s last-minute renunciation of British nationality became clear.
James To Kun-sun, the democratic camp’s candidate for presidency, said the Legco secretariat had the discretion to decide whether such documents were required for verification, and in this case, they did not exercise it, which was a “very dangerous move”. The Legco president must be a Chinese citizen with no right of abode in any foreign country under Article 71 the Basic Law.
“It is only appropriate for [candidates for Legco president] to [declare their citizenship status] when handing in their applications, because by that stage, if you run unopposed, you basically win by default,” To said.
According to the three UK Home Office documents that Leung showed to the press, Leung applied to give up his British nationality on September 22.
Then on September 30, the Home Office informed Leung that his renunciation was registered and a “declaration of renunciation” was attached. But Leung said he did not receive the document.
Without the certificate, Leung submitted his bid for presidency on October 3 and got accepted.
The Home Office sent a second letter to Leung on October 11, telling him that the declaration was despatched on October 6 – a day after the deadline for nominations for president.
The secretariat had “acted irresponsibly” and “breached the rules of procedure”, said activist-turned-lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick.
He said he would not give up the campaign against Leung, and he would continue to dig into the documents and the 18 companies in which Leung had shares.
In response, the secretariat said on Thursday night: “The secretariat has no statutory power to ask councillors for information about their nationality.”
“The rules of procedure on the election of president do not require candidates to submit [such] information to the secretariat,” it added.
Meanwhile, the pan-democratic legislator who gave up chairing the Legislative Council president election slammed the secretariat for “misleading” and “betraying” him.
Pan-democrat Leung Yiu-chung, the second most senior legislator, gave up the role amid calls from his colleagues to postpone the election due to doubts over whether Andrew Leung was qualified for the post.
The pan-democrat came under fire for stepping down, as he was replaced by pro-establishment legislator Abraham Razack, who pushed the election ahead.
“I’m very sorry I couldn’t live up to the expectations of my colleagues and for letting down my voters in the way I handled this incident,” Leung said as he bowed before the cameras at a press conference on Thursday.
But he stressed that the secretariat told him he could only “oversee” the election and did not have the same powers as the president, while later it told the exact opposite to Razack.
League of Social Democrats’ “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung said the pro-democracy camp as a whole should also bear some responsibility over the incident as they should have formulated better strategies beforehand.
Pauline Ng Man-wah, former secretary-general of the Legislative Council Secretariat, said Leung Yiu-chung did not enjoy the power of Legco president at the Wednesday meeting but only the “necessary power of a normal chairman”.
“He could reasonably exercise his power to ensure the meeting to be conducted smoothly,” Ng told the Post. “For instance, he could suspend the meeting to enable something to be done for a reasonable period.”
While some pro-democracy activists argued Leung Yiu-chung should have disqualified Andrew Leung with his power, Ng disagreed as she said the member who presided the meeting of the presidential election had no right to invalidate anyone’s candidacy.
Additional reporting by Jeffie Lam