Legal specialists among almost 60 to join battle for National People’s Congress seats
Hopefuls include many from the legal sector, as sources says Beijing hopes to strengthen influence in legal issues
Almost 60 people, some of them new faces from the legal sector, joined the race to elect 36 deputies to the National People’s Congress as nominations closed on Monday.
Sources in the pro-establishment camp had said that Beijing hoped to have more local deputies with such backgrounds to strengthen its influence in legal issues in the city.
The development came weeks after Li Fei, the Basic Law Committee chairman, reignited the debate over whether Hong Kong should speed up its pace in enacting national security legislation. A move to pass a law was shelved in 2003 after half a million people protested, fearing for their liberty.
At least four of the hopefuls were from the legal sector: former Law Society chairman Ambrose Lam San-keung; current council member of the Law Society Nick Chan Hiu-fung; an opponent of the 2014 Occupy Central movement, Maggie Chan Man-ki; and a legal adviser of the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions, Zhan Meiqing.
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The spotlight was also on another newcomer, Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, the former minister in charge of the city’s mainland affairs. He had echoed calls by incumbent deputies, including Cheng Yiu-tong and Stanley Ng Chau-pei, that the government should push to enact national security law within the next five years.
Tam Yiu-chung, a former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, also entered the race. He is tipped to replace the retiring Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai as the sole local delegate to the NPC Standing Committee, which holds the power to interpret the Basic Law.
Tam was endorsed with more than 860 nominations – from the same committee used in chief executive elections – when hopefuls need the backing of only 10 to enter the race.
Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki is the only pan-democratic lawmaker running.
But he has refused to sign the new declaration form under which candidates must pledge allegiance to both China and Hong Kong, and declare that they will uphold the Chinese constitution and the Basic Law.
He called this an unacceptable requirement that would restrict people from participating in the election. Kwok said he was confident of winning should the race be carried out in a fair and just manner.
Seven Occupy Central supporters and Election Committee member Roger Wong Hoi-fung were among the pro-democracy figures who had signed up for the campaign.
A panel of 1,989 Hong Kong electors, including about 300 pan-democrats, will choose the 36 deputies by block vote on December 19.