Edward Leung alters stance, signs new election declaration form

July 29, 2016 12:31
Edward Leung says he accepted a controversial new election rule as his main priority now is to make his way into the Legislative Council. Photo: HKEJ

There is an old Chinese saying: "A great man knows when to yield and when not".

Well, Edward Leung Tin-kei, a member of the localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, may not be a great man but he seems to know for sure when to yield and take a pragmatic position.

After vehemently opposing a controversial new rule on Legislative Council election candidates, Leung did a volte-face and agreed to sign a declaration accepting that Hong Kong is an inseparable part of China.

Leung, who is running for a seat in the New Territories East constituency in the September Legco election, told reporters Thursday that he has signed and submitted a declaration demanded on all candidates by the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC).

Under a rule announced by the EAC on July 14, candidates for the upcoming election are required to submit a declaration that they will uphold the Basic Law -- the city's mini-constitution -- and also acknowledge that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China.

The declaration has to be submitted before the two-week nomination period ends this Friday.

With the EAC warning that candidates who fail to submit the declaration could face disqualification, the move was seen as an attempt by the government to prevent people advocating independence and self-determination for Hong Kong from running in the election.

Leung, along with two other political activists, filed petitions in a court in a bid to get the new electoral rule quashed, but a judge ruled Wednesday that there is no need for an urgent hearing. 

Following the setback, independence-leaning candidates were faced with a choice: change their position and sign the new declaration, or risk facing disqualification or other troubles in future.

Now, Leung has revealed that he has indeed signed the new form, despite his misgivings.

He told reporters Thursday that he had said "No" in response to an email query from an electoral officer who asked if Leung will continue to call and push for Hong Kong independence.

In a four-page reply written in English instead of Chinese, a move advised by his lawyers so as to prevent potential wrong interpretation of his words -- Leung claimed, among other things, that he had nothing to do with remarks posted on Hong Kong Indigenous' Facebook page.

He also said that he had set up a new personal Facebook page after closing a previous account on July 23, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

Admitting that he had struggled with the issue of the declaration, Leung said he finally decided that the end justifies the means as his primary goal now is to try to become a Legco member.

He said he didn't want to be deprived of his chance to become a lawmaker due to the new rules.

Joining the election and getting elected is his top priority at the moment, he said, adding his political beliefs in relation to Hong Kong's future have won him a lot of support from the people.

Barrister Ronny Tong, convenor of the Path of Democracy think-tank and a former lawmaker, said he sees no reason why the chief electoral officer won't believe Leung's words.

The law does not forbid anyone from changing his mind, he said.

That said, Tong warned that Leung could face trouble in the event that he goes back on his words after winning a seat.

Under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance, a lawmaker can be disqualified if he is found to have made false declaration in his election form, he pointed out.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal