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Hong Kong localism and independence

Lawmakers should consider extending allegiance requirement to district councils and rural bodies in Hong Kong, says Beijing loyalist Maria Tam

  • Elections that do not involve a seat in a council might not need to be covered, says vice-chairwoman of Basic Law Committee
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2018, 2:30pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2018, 10:39pm

Hong Kong’s legislature should consider extending the requirement of allegiance to rural and district level elections, pro-establishment camp heavyweight Maria Tam Wai-chu said on Saturday.

Elections that did not involve a seat in a council, such as for the 1,200-strong committee that selects the chief executive, however, might not need to be covered, she added.

Tam’s comments came after lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick was barred from entering a rural representative election last Sunday.

A returning officer who handled Chu’s application suggested the lawmaker had “implicitly” maintained his support for the view that “independence could be an option for Hong Kong people”.

Chu was the first person to be disqualified from running in a rural election because of their political stance, while nine others in the pro-democracy camp had been blocked from entering Legislative Council polls since 2016.

Speaking on a radio programme on Saturday, Tam, vice-chairwoman of Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s top legislative body, said the enforcement of electoral regulations had become a controversial matter.

She suggested Legco should “seriously consider” extending the requirement of allegiance to district council elections.

“At the moment, other elected posts that involve exercising public power are not included,” Tam said.

Legal experts say Eddie Chu ban from village poll based on shaky argument

She was referring to Article 104 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which spells out the allegiance requirements for government officials and members of the city’s Executive Council, Legco and judiciary. They must swear to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Rural representatives and district councillors are not mentioned in the provision.

“As to whether they should be included? It is simple, just wait for Legco’s constitutional affairs panel to consider it,” Tam said.

She also said Legco should spell out what it means to violate the requirement.

“Not only the form, but also the substance,” she said.

For elections that did not directly involve getting a seat in any council, Tam said there may be no need to impose the same requirement of allegiance.

That includes the Election Committee for picking the chief executive and government advisory bodies.

During last year’s chief executive election, the pro-democracy camp managed to take about 300 seats on the Election Committee.

Lawyers question power of returning officers to disqualify election candidates

Tam said priority should be given to rural and council elections, as councillors were involved in policymaking and the usage of public finances.

After being barred from entering the rural poll, Chu said the incident showed that election hopefuls had to openly oppose independence and that not being a separatist was not enough.

If someone raises views against the Basic Law … as a person in public office, I think at least you can say it is wrong
Maria Tam, vice-chairwoman of Basic Law Committee

This would encroach on freedom of speech, he said.

Though there was no need to play police, Tam said lawmakers should voice their opposition to separatist calls.

“If someone raises views against the Basic Law … as a person in public office, I think at least you can say it is wrong,” she said.

Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung, a member of the constitutional affairs panel, said Tam’s rationale was “beyond my wisdom”.

“It means the disqualification of Chu was problematic. If it wasn’t, why discuss it further at Legco?” Yeung said.

He also noted it was ultimately the government’s decision to enforce electoral regulations, or decide whether to adopt lawmakers’ suggestions.