A newly elected Hong Kong member of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) has come in for strong criticism from the pan-democrats after he warned that people who call for an end to one-party rule may be disqualified from future Legislative Council elections in the city.
Tam Yiu-chung, who has replaced Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai as the Hong Kong member of China’s top parliamentary decision-making body for the next five years, said in Beijing on Monday, one day after he was elected, that people who raise slogans such as “end one-party dictatorship” could be seen as violating the national constitution following an amendment carried out to the document.
The NPC last week decided to insert some words to proclaim that the leadership of the Communist Party is the most essential attribute of the socialism with Chinese characteristics into Article 1 of the constitution, which states “the socialist system is the basic system of the People’s Republic of China.”
As the document now states that socialism with Chinese characteristics must be led by the Communist Party, Tam said Hong Kong people who call for an end to the one-party rule would be found in breach of the national constitution.
Tam said related details, including whether disqualification would be retroactive, should be left to returning officers to consider. But he stressed that it is only his personal opinion in response to a question from the media, and that he is not delivering any message from senior central government officials.
Tam’s warning sparked criticism almost immediately from some law experts and pan-democratic lawmakers, who pointed out that nowhere in the Basic Law — Hong Kong’s mini-constitution — is it specified that Hongkongers must uphold the national constitution.
Former lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan, who chairs the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, organizer of the annual June 4 candlelight vigil in Victoria Park, said Tam’s remarks, if true, are tantamount to forcing the lawmakers who belong to the organization to quit being Legco members, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Claiming that Tam’s words go against the promise made by the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who had said Hongkongers can criticize the Communist Party, Ho vowed that his alliance, which has “end one-party rule” as one of its five main creeds, will stick to its principles and continue chanting the slogans such as “release civil rights activists”, “end one-party dictatorship” and “build a democratic China”.
Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan lashed out at Tam for misleading the public, while lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin, who is also from the party and a standing committee member of the alliance, accused Tam of being highly irresponsible and trying to create “white terror” in Hong Kong as well as seeking to suppress freedom of speech.
Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, a professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong, pointed out that the Basic Law does not require a Legco candidate to swear allegiance to the Communist Party.
Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal lecturer of the faculty, said he is worried that the “one country, two systems” principle might be greatly impacted if the debate prompts the NPCSC to interpret what “uphold the Basic Law” means.
In response to media inquiries about the matter, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor only said she does not see how a constitutional amendment is related to the Legco election.
She stressed that qualification of Legco candidates should be based on the local law at that time and the evidence held by a returning officer.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, meanwhile, said the fact that the Basic Law derives from the national constitution means the latter must be indisputably respected.
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