Hong Kong elections: Beijing to allow city lawmakers barred from Legco polls in extended term, sources say
- China’s top legislative body will on Tuesday issue a directive on the conditions arising from the postponement of Hong Kong’s Legco polls
- US and other members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance issue joint statement urging Hong Kong government to hold the elections as soon as possible
Four lawmakers who were banned from running in elections for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council will be allowed to stay on for a provisional term with other incumbents, according to sources who said the central government’s lenient approach was based on views from the city’s leader and moderates from the pro-establishment camp.
A source familiar with the matter told the Post that a resolution allowing all incumbent lawmakers to stay for another year is expected to be endorsed when the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) concludes its four-day session on Tuesday. The NPCSC is also expected to issue a directive relating to the postponement of Legco elections that day.
“The chief executive told the central government she wanted an extension of term for all current legislators,” the source said. “Beijing made the decision after taking into account Carrie Lam’s views.”
The news came on Sunday, the same day that five countries, including the United States, urged the city’s government to hold the polls as soon as possible.
The joint statement issued by Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US said: “We are gravely concerned by the Hong Kong government’s unjust disqualification of candidates and disproportionate postponement of Legco elections. These moves have undermined the democratic process.”
Beijing’s moderate approach to the barred legislators came amid overwhelming calls from the pro-establishment camp for the lawmakers in question to be barred from an extended term on grounds that they have been banned from the Legco elections.
When Zhang Xiaoming, the deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), was in Hong Kong earlier this month to meet representatives from various sectors, some moderate pro-establishment figures also told him that the four lawmakers should be allowed to stay on.
A source who has knowledge about the NPCSC meeting said on Saturday incumbent lawmakers would have the chance to stay on after going through certain procedures such as signing a declaration form or taking oaths.
On Saturday, the NPCSC placed the “continuation of Hong Kong’s sixth Legco” on its agenda.
HKMAO director Xia Baolong presented a resolution to the NPCSC on how to deal with the legal issues triggered by the postponement of the elections.
On July 31, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor postponed the elections, originally scheduled for September 6, citing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hong Kong Legislative Council elections postponed by a year
One big question that arose from the postponement was whether the four opposition lawmakers – Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Kwok Ka-ki and Dennis Kwok of the Civic Party, and accountancy sector’s Kenneth Leung – could continue to serve in the coming year.
Election officials had cited the national security law and pan-democrats’ previous calls for foreign governments to sanction Beijing and Hong Kong as key reasons for their disqualification.
Lam said it would be most pragmatic to simply extend the term, and her own view was that all sitting members should carry on if the Legco term was extended.
Li Xiaobing, a Hong Kong specialist and a law professor at Nankai University in Tianjin, said it would be an indication of Beijing’s leniency if all incumbent lawmakers were allowed to stay in the extended term.
“The elections have been postponed because of the pandemic. It would only undermine the legitimacy of the decision and even give ammunition to critics if some opposition lawmakers are purged because of political reasons,” he said.
Li said it would be reasonable to require all serving lawmakers to sign a declaration form or take an oath to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the special administrative region as the condition for serving the extended year.
Lau Siu-kai, the vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said allowing the four lawmakers to stay on would not do much harm as the pro-establishment camp enjoyed a majority in the legislature.
“But many people in the pro-establishment camp would be surprised that those who have been barred from seeking re-election could stay in the provisional term,” he said.
The NPCSC on Sunday also discussed draft amendments to the National Flag Law and the National Emblem Law.
According to the amendments to the National Flag Law, displaying the national flag upside down or in other ways that diminishes its dignity will be banned.
Hong Kong will be required to make corresponding amendments to the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance, the local legislation to implement the two national laws in the city, after the amendments are endorsed.