Hongkongers who lobby for end to ‘one-party dictatorship’ run risk of election disqualification, top Beijing delegate warns

The city’s sole member of China’s top legislative body, Tam Yiu-chung, tells the Post that Legco motion debates related to such calls should not be allowed

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2018, 3:31pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 March, 2018, 2:03pm

Hongkongers who chant slogans urging an end to “one-party dictatorship” run the risk of being disqualified from future elections, the city’s sole member of China’s top legislative body has warned.

Tam Yiu-chung also said any motion debates related to such calls should not be allowed in the city’s Legislative Council, a day before he was elected as a deputy to the powerful National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

Tam secured 2,941 votes in favour of his election, with nine against it on Sunday.

Last week, the National People’s Congress passed with near unanimous support constitutional amendments that further underlined the undisputed authority of the Communist Party. While the world has focused on the scrapping of the president’s term limit, a line was added to Article 1 of the country’s constitution with a description of the party’s leadership as “the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics”.

The reference to the party’s leading role previously appeared only in the preamble, which most legal scholars have said is not legally binding.

Asked how the addition of the line would affect Hong Kong, Tam told the Post in Beijing: “As the party and the state are now closely connected, yes, some problems may be revealed over time.”

The city has for years seen slogans of “end one-party dictatorship” chanted by attendees at an annual candlelit vigil remembering the Tiananmen crackdown of June 4, 1989.

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With the latest amendments and the NPCSC’s interpretation in November 2016 of Article 104 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, effectively ousting six pro-democracy lawmakers for improper oath-taking, Tam said it was possible that proponents of such slogans could be barred by election authorities.

“You could chant such slogans and no one would stop you,” Tam said. “But there is a problem if you’re contesting an election.” He added that strict legal requirements existed for candidates standing for election and taking up public office.

Legco candidates are now required to sign a declaration in their nomination form vowing they will uphold the Basic Law and pledge “allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China”.

Tam, a veteran pro-Beijing politician and former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, believes lawmakers must also respect the Chinese constitution.

In a Legco by-election this month, three election hopefuls including Demosisto’s Agnes Chow Ting were barred from running. Election authorities cited their calls for the city’s “self-determination” and independence, and sparked a political storm locally.

Tam said the Legco Secretariat should not approve any motion debates involving calls to “end one-party dictatorship” and stating the phrase “anti-CCP”. Every year, pan-democrats table a motion calling on lawmakers to “not forget the June 4 incident”. Former Legco member “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung in the past tried to amend the motion by adding a clause calling for an end to “one-party dictatorship”.

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While former Legco president Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai barred such amendments in 2007, her successor, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, approved such amendments in 2009. In recent years, pan-democrats did not raise similar amendments, but a few made such calls in their remarks in the chamber.

Tam believed that, unlike in the past, Beijing officials now speak more freely about the Communist Party in the city, where the “one country, two systems” governing principle is applied.

“Why do other countries fail to develop as fast as China? It’s because they lack a capable party like the CCP. Like it or not, this is a fact.”

In December, the legal head of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong urged the city to recognise that it was part of “red China” and was invested in the future of the Communist Party.

Is the CCP so horrible? No ... things have changed
Tam Yiu-chung

“In the past, the CCP was depicted as something fiendish,” Tam added. “But now, it operates openly, is transparent and follows procedures.”

“Without the CCP and its 89 million members, China would break apart. Who else could rule a country with a population of 1.3 billion people?”

Tam believed Hongkongers would slowly accept the party’s primacy. “Is the CCP so horrible?” he asked. “No … things have changed.”

On his role in the NPCSC, Tam pledged to reflect Hongkongers’ opinions to the top legislature in any further interpretations of or amendments to the Basic Law.

Kimmy Chung is reporting from Beijing