24 March 2019
Pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu had been barred from contesting in a rural representative election in Yuen Long. The picture inset shows the notice of decision by the returning officer overseeing the election. Photos: HKEJ, Eddie Chu/Facebook
Pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu had been barred from contesting in a rural representative election in Yuen Long. The picture inset shows the notice of decision by the returning officer overseeing the election. Photos: HKEJ, Eddie Chu/Facebook

Eddie Chu slams ‘absurd’ decision to bar him from rural election

Lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick has slammed a move by authorities to prevent him from contesting a village election, terming the disqualification as yet another attempt on the part of the administration to stifle dissenting political voices.  

Responding to news that he had been barred from running as a candidate in a rural representative election in Yuen Long, Chu said late Sunday that the decision was “absurd” and that it marks “violation of the Basic Law”.

The disqualification will only add to concerns in society about “a very dangerous trend of political censorship,” Chu told media persons outside the Legco building, according to RTHK. 

Alleging that the law is being used as a tool to suppress dissidents, Chu said he is still undecided on filing a review petition.

The comments came after Chu was informed Sunday that he won’t be allowed to join a rural election as a returning officer has decided that Chu didn’t pass muster in terms of disavowing calls for self-determination in relation to Hong Kong’s future.

The returning officer in charge of Yuen Kong San Tsuen village election disqualified Chu as the officer felt the opposition lawmaker’s political stance has not changed, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Chu, 41, had sought to run in a rural representative contest in Yeung Kong San Tsuen, a village in Pat Heung in the Yuen Long area, a poll that is scheduled for Jan. 13 next year.

But the door has been shut on him now following the decision of the returning officer, who suspected that Chu still stands with those who argue for “self-determination” for Hong Kong.

Last week Chu was asked twice by returning officer Enoch Yuen Ka-lok to respond to questions regarding his stance toward self-determination before he was notified Sunday evening that his candidacy has been blocked.

In the six-page notice of decision, Yuen said Chu not only failed to answer the questions directly but also intentionally dodged them.

According to the notice, Chu’s answers, “when viewed objectively, can be understood as implicitly confirming that he supports that independence could be an option for Hong Kong people, in the pretext of exercising the alleged right to advocate independence in a peaceful manner”.

Looking at all the “materials in totality”, Yuen considered that “Chu’s political stance has been constituently the same”, thus deciding to bar Chu from running in the rural election.

Noting that he had been allowed in the past to contest the 2016 Legco election and faced no legal challenge subsequently, Chu said his stance has never changed but it is now being used as the reason to disqualify him for the coming rural election.

It shows how authorities are unilaterally interpreting the law, in a bid to implement political censorship, without bothering to go through any consultation and legislative procedure, said the Land Justice League lawmaker.

The government, meanwhile, said in a statement that while permanent residents of Hong Kong “have the right to vote and the right to stand for election in accordance with law”, the government “has a duty to implement and uphold the Basic Law and to ensure that all elections will be conducted in accordance with the Basic Law and relevant electoral laws.”

In 2016, Chu, Demosistō party and ousted lawmaker Lau Siu-lai had said in a joint declaration wherein they said they would “support independence as an option for Hong Kong people to self-determine their future”.

Chu later won more votes than any other candidate citywide in the Legco election that year.

Following Sunday’s decision by the election officer, the government said “it agrees to and supports the decision” of the official, stressing 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 by some members of the community.”

Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit, who is a senior counsel, claimed the requirements listed by the law interpretation on the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance by the National People’s Congress in 2016 did not cover village representatives and therefore it should not be not be applied to disqualify Chu.

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the city’s largest pro-Beijing political party, on its part backed the returning officer’s decision, saying in a statement that the decision helps ensure that the Basic law is upheld and the “one country, two systems” principle implemented precisely.

Lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, a barrister from the pro-Beijing Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong and a member of Beijing’s Basic Law Committee, as well as Executive councilor Ronnie Tong Ka-wah, who is also a senior counsel, said they believe a candidate in the same situation as Chu will be disqualified in the District Council Election next year or in the Legco race in 2020.

On Monday, 24 lawmakers from the pro-democracy camp issued a joint statement expressing its extreme anger and the strongest condemnation, accusing the administration of extending “the red line” as it deems fit anytime.

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