Chief executive contender Woo Kwok-hing urges criminalisation of ‘meddling’ in Hong Kong affairs

Potential candidate cites Basic Law article stating that Beijing and regional governments are not allowed to interfere in city’s internal affairs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 February, 2017, 5:52pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 February, 2017, 10:32pm

Hong Kong chief executive contender Woo Kwok-hing has proposed making a law to ban “meddling” by mainland Chinese authorities in the city’s internal affairs, warning that the public perception about interference would undermine the city’s political, social and economic progress.

The retired judge and underdog in the race made the proposal part of his manifesto on Sunday as he unveiled an updated version of the platform he rolled out in December.

The latest platform also includes Woo’s policy proposals on labour, culture, art and sports issues, as well as the rights of women, children and ethnic minorities.

Article 22 of the city’s Basic Law states: “No department of the Central People’s Government and no [regional authorities] ... under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own.”

In recent years, critics have accused Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong of meddling with the city’s elections. Pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun also complained last month that the chief executive election had “lost its shape” due to interference by “an invisible hand” – an apparent reference to mainland authorities.

Woo first proposed last month that interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs should be made a criminal offence.

Speaking after meeting the public in Tai Kok Tsui on Sunday, Woo said he had included the idea in his updated platform to protect the “two systems” in the “one country,two systems” principle.

“Article 22 prohibits any interference ... but without a law to criminalise it, there is nothing you can do about any contravention of the article,” Woo said.

Woo’s remarks came as about 100 protesters marched from Causeway Bay to the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, where the campaign office and residence of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor are located.

Lam is seen in some quarters as Beijing’s preferred candidate. The protesters said the leadership race was “a small-circle election prone to Beijing’s manipulation” as only 1,194 Election Committee members were eligible to vote.

Meanwhile, a third contender, New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, hit out at Lam for hosting a star-studded rally featuring tycoons and pro-Beijing politicians on Friday.

“It was biased. She wasn’t facing the entire society and the people ... The core supporters were mainly powerful dignitaries, and it would not make such a good impression,” Ip said after attending a horse race hosted by the powerful rural body, the Heung Yee Kuk.

Lam dismissed the criticism about her rally in a Commercial Radio programme on Sunday.

She said: “A lot of people from the grass roots were there ... For example, my friends from the social welfare sector, several severely disabled [participants] in wheelchairs and a dozen hearing impaired people,” she said, adding that ethnic minorities and residents of subdivided flats were also represented.

In a separate development, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen warned that it could be an offence under the law for anyone to pay for electoral advertisements online without a candidate’s consent.

Tam was speaking in response to a media question about Facebook pages created by the candidates’ supporters and critics.