Article 26 of the Basic Law expressly provides that “permanent residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall have the right to vote and the right to stand for election in accordance with law”.
Following the disqualification of Agnes Chow, one of the founders and a standing committee member of the youth activist group Demosistō, from running in the upcoming Legislative Council by-elections, we now know even more clearly — as it has been presented ever so crudely — that the government could always interpret and invoke that phrase “in accordance with law” to overturn the very essence of that provision in our mini-constitution to suit its needs. The government is the law.
Chow has met all the requirements to run for the vacant Legco seat in the Hong Kong Island constituency. She has renounced her British citizenship and she was ready to sign the form declaring that she will uphold the Basic Law and she understands that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China and a local administrative region of China.
But apparently, that is not enough. The returning officer has rejected her candidacy, stressing that Chow is incapable of observing China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong because her party advocates self-determination.
The officer made the decision based on her own judgment. Chow was not given the chance to clarify her position or dispute the officer’s allegation as contained in the letter notifying her of her disqualification.
The officer’s action should serve as a warning to Hongkongers who, although they have no clear political stance, want to live in a free and democratic society.
The officer has shown that the government has the right to judge one’s political beliefs based on its own judgment, and not on facts or evidence presented by the prospective candidate. The decision is nothing else but a barefaced political censorship, made in accordance with the wishes of the HKSAR government and the central authorities.
On Monday afternoon members of the legal sub-sector of the Chief Executive Election Committee blasted the authorities’ decision to bar Chow from the upcoming polls, saying the move has infringed on her fundamental rights guaranteed by the Basic Law.
In a joint statement signed by 30 prominent legal figures, including Senior Counsels Philip Dykes, Alan Leong and Hectar Pun, the group said the right to stand for election is a “fundamental right enshrined in Article 26 of the Basic Law of the HKSAR as well as Article 21 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights”. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has made it clear that people hoping to stand for election should not be excluded by reason of political affiliation or political opinion.
The decision to bar Chow was “unreasonable, unlawful and unconstitutional”, it said, adding that the administration finds the political views of her Demosistō party unacceptable.
Only hours after the statement was issued, the government approved Edward Yiu’s candidacy for a Legco seat in the Kowloon West constituency.
The decision came as a surprise because Yiu had earlier been disqualified from Legco after his oath of office was declared invalid, and many in the pro-Beijing camp believed that he would be disqualified from running again for a seat in the legislature’s current term of office.
But Yiu, unlike Chow, was given a chance to clarify his political stance and thus was able to avoid being disqualified.
The decision only proves that the government is engaged in a political censorship, and its decisions are based on its own judgment, regardless of the facts.
Many people are wondering why this is so. Most likely, that’s because Chow is a key member of Demosistō, and the pro-democracy party was co-founded by Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, the two key leaders of the Occupy Movement of 2014.
Demosistō’s background is enough reason for the authorities to disqualify Chow without giving her an opportunity to explain her political beliefs as Yiu was able to do.
The government wants to deprive Demosistō of any chance to use Legco to consolidate its forces and boost its influence.
Now if members of Demosistō are not allowed to stand in any election, the next question is whether the pro-democracy party, in the eyes of the authorities, is an illegal organization as alleged by some pro-Beijing lawmakers.
What will be the government’s next step? Take action against Demosistō?
Originally published at www.ejinsight.com on January 30, 2018.