Pan-democrats opposed a move by the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) to require candidates in the Legislative Council election to declare that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is part of China.
The requirement, a declaration attached to the nomination form that must be signed by all Legco candidates, is seen as an attempt by the government to prevent those who are advocating independence and self-determination for Hong Kong from running in the election scheduled for Sept. 4.
In a press statement, the EAC announced on Thursday that candidates must agree to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR before they can be nominated to run for Legco seats, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The two-week nomination period starts on Saturday.
Anyone who fails to sign the form will not be validly nominated as a candidate, the EAC said, adding that running for the election, signing the nomination form, and making the declaration are solemn acts.
Civic Party legislator Alan Leong Kah-kit, who is a barrister, questioned the legal basis of the declaration form, while Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing said the new form is unnecessary and may backfire, broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong reported.
The nomination forms are available for collection starting Friday.
The returning officer will process the nomination after the form is received, and determine and announce whether the nomination is valid, the commission said.
It also warned that candidates who make the declaration must clearly understand its relevant context and legal consequences.
Making a false declaration is liable to criminal sanction, which may involve a fine of up to HK$100,000 and three years’ imprisonment in addition to deprivation of the right to run in District Council and Legco elections for three years and five years respectively.
In explaining the new requirement, the EAC said questions have been raised by the public as to whether candidates fully understand the Basic Law.
It specifically pointed out three provisions in the Basic Law that all candidates must bear in mind, namely Articles 1, 12 and 159(4) which state that the Hong Kong SAR is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China, that it enjoys a high degree of autonomy and comes directly under the central government, and that no amendment to the law shall contravene China’s basic policies regarding Hong Kong.
Following the EAC announcement, the government said in a statement on Thursday evening that advocating and promoting Hong Kong independence is contrary to the content of the candidate’s declaration, rendering it questionable as to whether the concerned candidate is capable of being validly nominated, and causing uncertainties to the Legco election and confusion to electors.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen denied the declaration form is tantamount to political censorship, as some have alleged.
A source in the government told HKEJ that there will no legal consequences or criminal conviction for any candidate who refuses to sign the form.
Leong said he is surprised that EAC chairman Barnabas Fung Wah would allow such a form that has no legal basis whatsoever.
Edward Leung Tin-kei, a member of the localist group Hong Kong Indigenous who is running again in the New Territories East geographical constituency after losing in the Feb. 28 by-election, said the EAC move is clearly aimed at pro-independence candidates, who are seen as a threat to the regime.
He said he will sign the form if his lawyer suggests to him to do so, but that is only to be able to run in the election.
He said he will continue to promote the idea of independence during the campaign.
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