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Legislative Council by-election 2018

By-election ban on ousted Hong Kong lawmaker Lau Siu-lai not necessarily permanent, says veteran pro-Beijing politician Rita Fan

  • Former National People’s Congress Standing Committee member says it depends on whether Lau can change her stance on Hong Kong sovereignty
PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 12:20am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 2:03pm

The recent disqualification of ousted opposition lawmaker Lau Siu-lai from running for a seat in Hong Kong’s legislature did not necessarily imply she was permanently banned from joining elections, a former pro-Beijing heavyweight said on Sunday.

Rather, Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, former member of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), China’s top legislative body, said it would depend on whether Lau could change her stance on Hong Kong sovereignty.

Lau was one of six lawmakers removed from the Legislative Council for improperly taking their oaths in October 2016.

She had planned to run in the Kowloon West by-election next month but was banned on October 12, with a returning officer appointed by the Electoral Affairs Commission arguing that she once advocated self-determination for Hong Kong and had not genuinely changed her stance.

Lau had ditched the self-determination calls over the past months in preparation for the by-election on November 25.

“If a person believes in Hong Kong independence or self-determination, it will be very difficult to see changes in a short time,” Fan said.

“But maybe in the future he or she might adjust their thoughts for some reason and not just for running in an election. I believe that it would show in words and deeds.

Disqualification of candidates must be able to stand legal test

“So disqualification once does not mean permanent disqualification. But whether someone can be qualified to run in an election would depend on one’s performances.”

Before Lau was banned, Labour Party veteran Lee had been prepared to serve as the “plan B” candidate for the pro-democracy camp should she be barred from the race. Last Thursday, the returning officer gave Lee, a former lawmaker, last-minute approval to run in the by-election.

If a person believes in independence or self-determination, it will be very difficult to see changes in a short time
Rita Fan

Before Lee was validated, there were fears in the camp that he might also be barred from the by-election for his core positions over the years in the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which has long called for an end to “one-party dictatorship”.

These concerns were sparked by Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s sole NPCSC member, who warned in March that Hongkongers who chanted slogans urging an end to “one-party dictatorship” would run the risk of being disqualified from future elections.

His remarks came after the national legislature passed constitutional amendments that further underlined the undisputed authority of the Communist Party.

Fan said slogans calling for an end to one-party rule violated the country’s constitution but that Hong Kong might not have the laws to deal with such issues.

Let lawyers decide who can run for election, says Bar chairman

“The laws of Hong Kong might not have enough ordinances [for the authorities] to make decisions relating to this area … it might be because the law might not be able to fully reflect the requirements of the nation’s constitution for Chinese nationals living in Hong Kong,” she said.

“I cannot forecast future situations, but neither could I rule out the possibility that you might have to follow exactly the country’s constitution [in validating a nominee].”