23 October 2016
Hong Kong's elections watchdog is facing questions over the disqualification of some candidates from the upcoming Legco polls. Photo: Now TV
Hong Kong's elections watchdog is facing questions over the disqualification of some candidates from the upcoming Legco polls. Photo: Now TV

Why the EAC’s moves raise serious concerns

Under the rule of Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong has witnessed deterioration in basically every aspect of society. Be it our universities, civil service, police, the ICAC, or even Hong Kong Post, the institutions have suffered an erosion in core values and hard-earned reputation.

The latest example of our city’s degeneration is the move by the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) to disqualify several pro-independence candidates from the upcoming Legco election. The action of the elections watchdog constitutes an outright violation of Articles 26 and 27 of the Basic Law, under which every adult Hong Kong citizen is entitled to the right to vote and stand for elections.

Worse still, our civil servants were once again used by the Leung regime as a tool to do the political dirty work. The fact that returning officers (civil servants who oversee the process of elections) were left to their own devices as to whether to allow a person to run in the September election, based entirely on their political beliefs, is not only unconstitutional, but also seriously undermines the long-standing political impartiality of our civil service.

Besides, the disqualified candidates will almost certainly file judicial review applications against the EAC’s decision, forcing the judiciary to take sides on Leung’s political censorship, something that will seriously infringe the principle of separation of powers.

Also, it is a matter of concern that there appears to have been no unified set of standards or criteria with regard to the evaluation of candidates. Some pro-independence candidates were disqualified even after they had signed a declaration pledging allegiance to the Basic Law, whereas some others were given the green light despite refusing to sign the new form.

It was entirely up to the returning officers to decide whether or not one was politically correct and therefore eligible to run. The whole thing is as ridiculous as it can get.

Simply put, it was a blatant abuse of power by the Leung regime. Dismayed at the government’s total disrespect for the rule of law, 30 representatives of the legal sector in the Election Committee, including heavyweights such as barrister Edward Chan King-sang and Philip Dykes, recently published an open letter expressing deep concern over the EAC’s decision.

The letter stressed that under Article 26 of the Basic Law, all citizens in Hong Kong above the age of 21 are entitled to the right of standing for elections. It also pointed out that the EAC’s decision was clearly unconstitutional because all that Article 40 of the Legislative Council Ordinance, which the EAC invoked, demands is that all candidates running for Legco submit a written declaration pledging to support the Basic Law before the election.

As such, it is entirely out of the jurisdiction of both the EAC and the returning officers to ask candidates to further prove that they are truly faithful to the Basic Law, let alone deprive anybody of the right to stand for elections based on their political convictions.

Amid widespread doubts over whether the EAC’s decision is in accordance with the Basic Law, the Leung administration recently threatened that it might seek interpretation of the Basic Law by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. If that happens, it would definitely spell the end-game for “One Country Two Systems”, which is already hanging by a thread.

People should not only be wary of Beijing and Leung, but also of politicians such as Edward Leung Tin-kei, the Hong Kong Indigenous candidate who got barred from the upcoming race.

As the activist betrayed his pro-independence stance by eagerly agreeing to sign the declaration of allegiance at the request of the EAC, it calls into serious question his integrity.

Voters should beware of hypocrites who try to secure votes by being opportunistic.

Our vote is the last weapon we have in the fight for our core values and the battle against injustice. Therefore we must make sure we cast our vote for the right person. Or else, we might end up having an even more incompetent Legco after September.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 5.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former radio talk show host; Columnist at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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