Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen defended a decision to ban localist leader Edward Leung from running in the upcoming Legislative Council election, saying the move was based on legal grounds.
An election officer from the New Territories East constituency, where Leung sought to contest in the September polls, had clearly explained to the candidate the reason for his disqualification, Yuen said.
Supporting the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, is the fundamental responsibility of Legco hopefuls, the minister said on Wednesday, suggesting that Leung failed to pass the test.
Asked as to why Leung was in that case allowed to run in a by-election in February, Yuen said the activist had at that time not clearly declared his support for Hong Kong independence, RTHK reports.
The justice secretary rejected accusations that Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) officers carried out “political screening” for the Legco election.
Returning officers in the constituencies are entitled to ask candidates for information, he said.
The comments came after an election officer on Tuesday disqualified Leung, a prominent member of the localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, from the September election on the ground that the candidate was advocating Hong Kong independence.
The EAC officer said she didn’t believe that Leung had changed his stance even though the candidate signed a pledge that he accepts that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China.
With Yuen defending the controversial decision, Leung said he finds the comments perplexing.
The political activist told RTHK that Yuen was “wrong” in saying that Leung did not talk about independence for Hong Kong before the Legco by-election in February.
“I directly talked about independence during the by-election. During an election forum … I was asked whether Hong Kong’s independence was a way out for Hong Kong, and I directly answered yes”, Leung said.
Leung received more than 60,000 votes in the February by-election, prompting observers to speculate that he had a fairly good chance of winning a seat in September.
The 25-year-old activist said he plans to file a petition against the rejection of his candidacy.
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