Veteran lawyer vows competitive race for Hong Kong’s top job

Leader of ProDem21 seeking seats on the Election Committee that selects the city’s next chief executive attacks Leung Chun-ying on rule of law

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, 1:12pm

The leader of a cohort of legal professionals and scholars in with a chance of winning seats on the body that selects Hong Kong’s next leader has promised a competitive election and accused Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying of obfuscating the city’s rule of law with “Chinese characteristics”.

Senior counsel Edward Chan King-sang, who leads ProDem21, told the Post on Tuesday: “We want to have a [chief executive] who can actually uphold the rule of law. We do not want rule of law with Chinese characteristics.”

The veteran lawyer has teamed up with 20 barristers, solicitors and legal scholars to compete for 30 places for the legal sector who will form part of the 1,200-member Election Committee that picks the city’s leader in March in what critics deem a small-circle election.

If elected, Chan said he and his fellow lawyers would use their nominating power to “make the election a competitive one”.

A total of 37 contenders will be vying for the 30 seats. Pro-democracy candidates would come mostly from Chan’s group and PanDem9, led by former lawmakers Alan Leong Ka-kit SC and Albert Ho Chun-yan. Former Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah SC is also in the running.

Citing his frustration with the chief executive, Chan said Leung was divisive, did not uphold the rule of law and was reversing ­democracy.

He criticised Leung, who has yet to reveal whether he would run for a second term, for his claim of being transcendent over all branches of the government, saying this was not the rule of law that lawyers in Hong Kong, a­ ­common law jurisdiction, had learned at law school.

The varied Hong Kong cast battling it out for Election Committee seats

Although he disagreed with the use of derogatory language by two localist lawmakers while taking their oaths in October, it was “unnecessary” for the chief executive to be involved as a plaintiff in lodging an unprecedented legal challenge against the legislature to stop them retaking their oaths.

The court ruled that Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching should lose their seats for insulting China and advocating independence. This followed Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law that lawmakers must take their oaths sincerely, accurately and completely.

Chan said the interpretation was “legislating for Hong Kong”.

He also weighed in on former judge Woo Kwok-hing, the only person so far to enter the chief executive race, saying that they resonated with him more than other possible contenders. But it was too early to decide whether to give him their support, he said.

He said that although Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, tipped to be a potential runner, boasted experience in government, this was not a must.

Six from anti-CY Leung group barred from running for Hong Kong’s Election Committee

Chan said they supported competition because it would force candidates to reveal their vision, by which they would be bound after they were elected.

An ideal candidate, he said, had to support real democracy and the rule of law while solving financial and social issues. “It should be real autonomy,” he added.

Solicitor Michael Vidler, who is in Chan’s group, said candidates should “fight for Hong Kong” rather than “just do the bidding of China”.

Chan said his group would not be complacent, citing their contender Catherine Mun Lee-ming’s result in the Legislative Council elections in September. Mun bagged 1,496 votes, or 30 per cent of the total, and failed to unseat her only rival, pan-democrat Dennis Kwok.

The number of votes secured by the “less well-known solicitor” was “slightly alarming”, Chan said.

Tong believed he was a “better choice” than the pro-democracy candidates as he was able to communicate with more potential chief executive contenders.