Hong Kong chief executive election candidates will have to sign new ‘loyalty’ declaration

Legco contenders had to sign the same controversial form before polls to acknowledge city’s status as part of China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 October, 2016, 6:41pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 October, 2016, 11:29pm

A controversial government move to screen out independence advocates from running in last month’s Legislative Council polls will be extended to the election for the city’s top leader in March.

According to guidelines issued on Thursday by the Electoral Affairs Commission, chief executive candidates will have to sign a “confirmation form” to acknowledge their understanding of the Basic Law.

The wording of the confirmation form was not revealed, but the guidelines stated that it was to help the returning officers “ensure that the nomination procedure is completed in accordance with the law”.

This is in addition to the requirement for candidates to sign a declaration that they will uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong special administrative region.

A commission spokesman said the additional requirement was decided after “taking into consideration the views received during a 14-day public consultation exercise” in June.

A source said the government was merely executing a legal requirement in a consistent fashion, following similar arrangements for Legco election candidates.

The requirement for signing an extra confirmation form was introduced in July during the nomination period for the Legco elections amid a rising tide of calls for Hong Kong independence.

Critics condemned the measure as censorship of political thought and some pan-democrats questioned its legality.

I can’t imagine someone who is against the Basic Law or who does not recognise that Hong Kong is part of China can get nominated by the Election Committee
Dr Chung Kim-wah, Polytechnic University

Many pan-democrat Legco candidates did not sign the form but their nominations were still validated, while pro-independence candidate Edward Leung Tin-kei, who had signed the form, was disqualified.

Two others, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching of the localist party Youngspiration, did not sign the form but were allowed to run. They won seats but are now steeped in a controversy over their use of “insulting and derogatory words against the Chinese people” during their swearing-in last week. Their oaths were rejected. The government is taking the case to the court in a bid to disqualify them.

Dr Chung Kim-wah, a political analyst at Polytechnic University, said the government’s latest move was to “silence critics who have argued against the new form during the Legco elections”.

“I can’t imagine someone who is against the Basic Law or who does not recognise that Hong Kong is part of China can get nominated by the Election Committee,” he added.

Under the guidelines, the ceiling of election expenses will be raised from HK$13 million in 2012 to HK$15.7 million, but the commission has not specified when the nomination period will start.

The leadership election will be held on March 26 next year. Candidates will have to be nominated by at least 150 members of the 1,200-strong Election Committee.

Incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has yet to confirm whether he will seek a second term. Other widely tipped candidates include Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

In a poll commissioned by Lingnan University, Tsang was the most popular pick among the public, with the support of 20 per cent of the 1,015 respondents, compared with 5 per cent for Leung and 3.4 per cent for Lam.