The nomination period for the September Legco election opened on Saturday. This time the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) has introduced an innovative measure: anyone who wants to stand for the election must sign a declaration pledging allegiance to the Basic Law, especially the articles stipulating that Hong Kong’s sovereignty lies with the Peoples’ Republic of China.
This measure comes at a time when some new political groups such as the Hong Kong National Party and Hong Kong Indigenous have openly vowed to include independence pledges into their election platforms.
Legal experts in the pan-democratic camp have raised questions as to whether it is constitutional for the EAC to unilaterally introduce such a measure. Candidates from the Democratic Party and the Civic Party have refused to sign the declaration and also threatened to file a judicial review petition against it.
The funny thing is, when asked whether a candidate who refuses to sign the declaration will lose his or her candidacy, Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Ronald Chan has remained rather equivocal about it and reiterated that the measure is by no means any political censorship in disguise.
That begs the question: if signing the declaration is not legally binding, and won’t affect one’s candidacy, then what’s the point of asking people to sign it?
Besides, every elected lawmaker will have to take an oath of loyalty to the Special Administrative Region and the Basic Law when they are sworn in, or else their term as lawmakers won’t be effective.
So basically what the EAC is asking candidates to do is to do something they will have to do anyway once they are elected.
Isn’t it completely unnecessary, just like reinventing the wheel?
Moreover, one can expect almost for certain even more controversy and contention if a candidate loses his or her candidacy because they refuse to sign that declaration, or if an election result is declared null and void because the winning candidate has violated the declaration. Is our government prepared to face that kind of scenario and the subsequent lawsuits?
Apparently, the EAC’s requirement on candidates to sign the declaration may be nothing more than a political gesture by the government to reassure Beijing that it is taking separatism very seriously.
The truth, however, is that everybody knows that it is not going to stop any separatist party from running for Legco. All it does is generate more argument and throw spotlight on the very parties the government wants to exclude from the election.
Like we have said numerous times before, the only way to stem the rising tide of separatist sentiment is for both Beijing and the SAR government to restore people’s confidence in “One Country Two Systems”.
Any other half-measures are bound to fail, and in some cases, backfire.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 18.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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