Electoral Affairs Commission between a rock and hard place
New requirement that Legco candidates declare Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China has all the hallmarks of a directive handed down by Beijing
Is it a repeat of the so-called 831, the date being August 31, 2014, when Beijing lobbed a live grenade in the form of the White Paper that stated it had “complete jurisdiction” over the city and was the sole source of its autonomy? It was released just ahead of the government’s political reform package and undid in a single stroke months of good work led by the chief secretary to promote the reform.
The latest bombshell is the new election rule that requires candidates for September’s Legislative Council elections to affirm Hong Kong being an inalienable part of China. Local officials have been taking the rap for the last-minute change, which has been denounced by pan-democrats, localists and many legal scholars. It came out of the blue, at a time when top officials from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying down have been careful not to encourage sentiments that might be exploited by radical activists ahead of the elections.
It has a whiff of “831” about it, even though the Electoral Affairs Commission is being made to take the lead. Mainland honchos such as liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming have come out warning loudly against letting advocates of Hong Kong independence into Legco.
But on the Hong Kong side, top officials have been running for cover, leaving commission chairman Barnabas Fung Wah and Ronald Chan Ngok-pang, the lowly undersecretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, to justify the late change.
Chan is a politically ambitious former protege of chief executive wannabe Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee. He made a single leap from being a district councillor to his current post. Did he volunteer for this thankless job?
What gives? It has all the hallmarks of a mainland initiative, handed down to the poor locals to execute. Certainly Beijing would see the measure as justified and quite mild, having warned before the handover in 1997 that Hong Kong must not be a base for subversion and secession.