Politics in Hong Kong in recent months has been more nail-biting than TV dramas.
First it was former lawmaker Chim Pui-chung and then Ricky Wong Wai-kei, chairman of HKTV, who dropped bombshells by announcing their intention to run for the Legislative Council and pledging to unseat Leung Chun-ying.
Last week, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and outgoing Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing electrified the already high charged political atmosphere by declaring that they may run in next year’s chief executive election.
The anti-Leung camp seems to have gained the upper hand.
In the meantime, the saga at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) deepened public suspicion that CY Leung could have used his power to interfere in an ICAC investigation into his receipt of HK$50 million from the Australian firm UGL.
With the odds stacked against him, Leung is desperate to turn the tables on his opponents in order to secure his re-election.
And I believe it is against such a background that the Electoral Affairs Commission suddenly introduced a new measure requiring Legco election candidates to sign a declaration pledging allegiance to the Basic Law, so that Leung can divert public attention from him and break the siege mounted by the anti-Leung camp.
Although it is quite rough and sloppy, such an idea by the EAC has proven to be quite effective.
However, the success of Leung’s counter-offensive could prove short-lived, and it might create even more variables in his re-election campaign.
By excluding pro-independence candidates from the Legco election based on flimsy legal grounds, Leung might risk angering the public and giving more spotlight to the very parties he wanted to exclude from the September election.
Besides, public attention is likely to refocus on the UGL case once the Legco election is over, as the newly elected pan-democratic lawmakers will almost for certain come after Leung on this issue.
Above all, by pegging the Legco election to the CE race, Leung is actually using the law as a political tool to crack down on dissent and his opponents, and what he did has already taken its toll on the freedom of expression in Hong Kong which is now hanging by a thread.
Given the high collateral damage, it is time for Leung to stop using the Legco election to facilitate his re-election campaign, because ultimately it would be the entire society that is going to pay the price.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 2.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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