24 March 2019
Agnes Chow and other pan-democrats hold a protest at a meeting of the Eastern District Council on Tuesday. Anne Teng Yu-yan, the returning officer who rejected Chow's candidacy, did not show up at the meeting. Photo: HKEJ/Internet
Agnes Chow and other pan-democrats hold a protest at a meeting of the Eastern District Council on Tuesday. Anne Teng Yu-yan, the returning officer who rejected Chow's candidacy, did not show up at the meeting. Photo: HKEJ/Internet

Hong Kong, Beijing brush off EU criticism of Agnes Chow ouster

The European Union accused the Hong Kong government of violating an international human rights treaty by barring a pro-democracy activist from running for a seat in the Legislative Council, only to be told to stay out of the matter, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the EU said the rejection of Agnes Chow Ting’s candidacy in view of her political affiliation “risks diminishing Hong Kong’s international reputation as a free and open society”.

“The protection of civil and political rights in Hong Kong is an essential part of the implementation of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle, which the EU supports,” the statement said.

It stressed that barring candidates from standing for election because of their political beliefs contravenes the right of citizens to run for election without unreasonable restrictions under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “whose application is guaranteed in Hong Kong by the Hong Kong Bill of Rights”.

Chow, 21, a standing committee member of the Demosistō party that advocates self-determination for Hong Kong people, was notified on Saturday by Anne Teng Yu-yan, returning officer of the Hong Kong Island constituency, that her nomination as a candidate in the by-election scheduled for March 11 was invalid, citing the young activist’s political stance.

As thousands of people gathered outside the Central Government Offices late Sunday to stage a protest against the decision, Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last colonial governor who has been urging people in the city to fight for democracy, and Lord Paddy Ashdown, former leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats, have jointly written a letter to British Prime Minister Theresa May, asking her to tell Beijing clearly that the Sino-British Joint Declaration and “one country, two systems” principle are still in effect.

They also wanted May to guarantee that developing Sino-British relations will not come at the expense of Britain’s obligations to Hong Kong.

Following the EU’s statement, the Hong Kong government said that there is no question of any political censorship, restriction of the freedom of speech or deprivation of the right to stand for elections as alleged, adding that foreign organizations and politicians should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of the HKSAR.

Brushing off EU’s condemnation, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said some foreign organizations may not fully understand the actual situation in Hong Kong.

Before attending a regular Executive Council meeting, Lam told media that the returning officer decided to disqualify the Demosistō candidate because advocating Hong Kong independence or self-determination as an option fails to fulfill the legal requirements.

Lam also dismissed the accusation that she or the Department of Justice had put pressure on the returning officer to disqualify Chow, saying it is normal that when returning officers need legal advice on a case they are handling, it is the justice department that offers legal advice.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Tuesday Hong Kong affairs are purely an internal matter for China and therefore China resolutely opposes any foreign government, organization or individual interfering in its affairs.

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, a principal lecturer at the Department of Professional Legal Education of the University of Hong Kong, said Chow’s disqualification is a message from the government that no explanation is needed because the power is in its hand, calling Chow’s disqualification a result of the returning officer’s expanding scope of authority.

Separately, several people who had registered as candidates for the by-elections still had not received confirmations from the returning officers as of Tuesday night, although nominations closed on Monday.

They included Au Nok-hin, a member of the Southern District Council who wants to replace Chow in the fight for a seat in the Hong Kong Island constituency; James Chan Kwok-keung, a member of Sha Tin District Council who is considered a localist; and Ventus Lau Wing-hong, former spokesman of the localist group Community Network Union.

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