Mainland official agrees with Hong Kong poll ban for anyone decrying ‘one-party dictatorship’
Deputy director of Beijing’s liaison office in Macau is the first person from the central government to back Tam Yiu-chung over assessment that drew the ire of pan-democrats
Concerns over further political vetting in Hong Kong elections mounted on Tuesday as a mainland official said city residents who call for an end to “one-party dictatorship” in China might be disqualified from running for local office.
Chen Sixi, deputy director of Beijing’s liaison office in Macau, was the first member of the central government to weigh in on the controversy sparked by Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to China’s top legislative body.
Tam, a member of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, warned last week that recent constitutional amendments in China meant Hongkongers would have to watch their words if they were eyeing a seat in the Legislative Council.
He was referring to a phrase newly added to the first article of the country’s constitution, stating that the Communist Party’s leadership is “the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics”.
Chen was on Tuesday asked if the amendments implied Hongkongers who called for an end to “one-party dictatorship” would be disqualified from future elections.
“According to my understanding, [the answer is] yes,” he said.
Hong Kong must respect the country’s constitution and defend its authority despite being a special administrative region, he said.
The pro-democracy camp and local legal scholars decried Tam’s comments, made exclusively to the Post last week, as a “betrayal” of the city’s core values. They said such comments jeopardised the city’s freedom of expression.
On Tuesday, former Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan – now the leader of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which holds the annual candlelight vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989 – said he remained committed to one of his team’s top aims.
“End of one-party dictatorship” is among the five key goals of the alliance, and is chanted at the vigil every year.
“As a group which has been fighting for a democratic China for years, we would not yield to any pressure,” Ho said.
He criticised both Chen and Tam for making “legally groundless” remarks which he said further eroded Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, a key member of the alliance, said he was confident the saga would not deter local residents or politicians from joining the vigil.
“I have confidence in Hongkongers as they have chanted the slogan for years,” Wan said. “It would be a test of the determination of those who aspire to step into politics, but I have every confidence in them.”
Responding to the controversy he sparked, Tam said he had merely spoken frankly on his own analysis, and that pan-democrat opposition was to be expected.
“Some Hongkongers resist the Chinese Communist Party. But the party and the country have connected closely today,” he said.
Some observers noted that Tam and Chen’s comments implied Beijing admitting the country was a “one-party dictatorship”, despite the preamble of its constitution stating it has a system of multiparty cooperation and political consultation led by the Communist Party.
But Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semi-official think tank, said such an admission was nothing controversial. He said the other parties all support – and would never replace – the Communist Party as the country’s leader.
“There is no ambiguity regarding one-party rule by the Communist Party,” Lau said, adding that Tam’s warning was valid.
Separately in Hong Kong, the local government told the Legco Commission, which helps run the legislature, that the wages and allowances paid to four disqualified pro-democracy lawmakers could be written off, if officials failed in their attempts to get the money back.
Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Lau Siu-lai, Edward Yiu Chung-yim and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung – unseated last year for improper oath-taking – faced bills ranging from HK$2.7 million to HK$3.7 million each.
Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung in Beijing