Legislative Council elections 2016

Hong Kong localist gives in to election rule while others stick to their guns and are cleared to run

Edward Leung Tin-kei, from Hong Kong Indigenous, agreed to accept controversial changes to election rules requiring candidates sign a form acknowledging Hong Kong as an inalienable part of China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 July, 2016, 10:37pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 July, 2016, 11:45pm

In a complete U-turn on Thursday, radical localist Edward Leung Tin-kei agreed to accept controversial changes to election rules targeting independence advocates, even as three others who refused to ­comply were cleared to run in September’s Legislative Council polls.

Commentators said the turn of events had raised more questions as to why the ­government would impose new rules without ­enforcing them, and possibly strengthened the case for other pro-independence candidates to challenge the authorities if their nominations were invalidated.

Leung had filed one of two ­applications for a judicial review of whether the Electoral Affairs Commission had the right to make all Legco candidates sign a form acknowledging Hong Kong as an inalienable part of China, in addition to the standard declaration to uphold the Basic Law.

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On Wednesday, the court ­refused to immediately hear the judicial reviews before the end of the nomination period on Friday.

Leung, of Hong Kong Indigenous, had previously been asked by his returning officer to clarify whether he still supported independence for the city after submitting his application to run for a seat in the New Territories East constituency. In his reply on Thursday, it was a “resounding no”.

“Since those in power do not want me to enter [Legco], I will do whatever I can to be elected,” he said. “I must stand for election in September and be a legislator to represent those who are not ­represented in society.”

The activist ­refused to say if he would resume his independence advocacy if he was elected in September. “I will not leave any room for the government to consider whether my nomination is valid,” he said, confirming that he had signed the new form.

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He also shut down his Facebook page, saying it contained “statements that are inconsistent with my present stance”.

But three localist candidates from an electoral alliance made up of post-Occupy groups – Youngspiration’s Kenny Wong Chun-kit and Yau Wai-ching, and Kowloon East Community member Chan Chak-to – had their ­candidacies validated on Thursday.

They had stated their personal support for independence and ­refused to sign the new form.

Wong said he would continue to back independence after 2047, when the “one country, two systems” formula guaranteeing the city’s autonomy expires.

Polytechnic University political scientist Dr Chung Kim-wah said there was no longer any validity to the new declaration rule.

“The government has put itself in a very difficult position as it did not plan this properly,” he said.

University of Hong Kong principal law lecturer Eric Cheung Tat-ming said: “If one [pro-independence] candidate is ­validated and another isn’t, it would suggest the returning ­officer was unfair and the decision was very subjective.”

The academic added that a ­new poll could be held if a ­rejected hopeful mounted a successful legal challenge through an election petition.