How CY Leung is trying to divide the opposition in Legco poll

August 02, 2016 16:09
Activists display a flag representing their call for Hong Kong independence. Photo: Reuters

The Leung Chun-ying administration appears to have found a way to prevent pro-independence activists from running in the Legislative Council election via a political loyalty check inserted into the nomination process.

But that's certainly not the end of the chief executive's worries.

Two administration heavyweights, Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, have signified their interest to run for the city's top job even before CY Leung himself is to formally declare his intention to seek a second term.

The two are no pushovers. Both officials enjoy higher levels of popularity and much more public support than Leung, according to various polls.

The question, however, is if Beijing will bestow its blessings on the two aspirants.

It could also be that their emergence as possible candidates has given the central government an opportunity to convince CY Leung not to run in next year's election to achieve the goal of having a more harmonious society in Hong Kong.

In a recent interview, Leung said that he could make the decision on whether to run for re-election after the Legco polls, which means that the results of next month's exercise would be a crucial factor in his decision – he'll run if the majority of the pro-administration candidates win, or call his first term in office his last when the pan-democratic camp dominates the election.

Many political observers believe that the new requirement from the Electoral Affairs Commission -that candidates must sign a new confirmation form accepting that Hong Kong is a part of China - was an order from Beijing.

But there is actually no need for that as all candidates must pledge to uphold the Basic Law, which provides for China's sovereignty over the special administrative region.

If anything, the requirement only betrays the government's incompetence and paranoia over the fledgling independence movement, which Beijing itself has engendered by stubbornly refusing to give the people the right to select their own leader without having to go through a nomination process.

As on Monday, Chan Ho-tin from the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, Yeung Ke-cheong from the Democratic Progressive Party, and localist and defeated District Council candidate Nakade Hitsujiko, were barred from running in the September election.

Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous is still awaiting the election commission's decision on his candidacy.

Still, many pan-democrats, like those from the Democratic Party, Civic Party, People's Power and League of Social Democrats, and, in fact, including localists such as those from Youngspiration, were allowed to run in the Legco race even though they did not sign the new confirmation form.

That suggests that the Hong Kong government wants to pre-select the candidates in the Legco election, in the same manner that it wanted to vet the candidates for the chief executive election in the political reform package that was defeated in Legco.

As such, the new nomination requirement is nothing but a tool to stir trouble among pan-democrats and create misunderstanding and suspicions within their ranks, which the government obviously hopes would reduce the number of seats the democrats hold in Legco.

Hong Kong elections used to be fair and transparent with the public trusting those in charge of the exercise to maintain their neutrality throughout the whole process without prejudice to specific candidates.

Many Hong Kong people now feel powerless as Leung continues to undermine the core values of the city over the past four years.

Which is why they want the younger generation to enter politics and inject fresh blood into the system.

They want these young, committed activists to represent their interests and hopes, to voice out the importance of the "two systems" amid government efforts to strengthen the "one country" part of the policy that has government China's rule over Hong Kong.

The public nomination system in the Legco election has been running smoothly for decades since the 1990s. It allows any Hong Kong permanent resident with sufficient nomination from the public to run for a Legco seat.

There has been no provision in the election law that prevents a candidate from running, except when they have been convicted of a crime by a court of law.

As such, there is no reason for the government to block a candidate with a political stance that is different from that subscribed to by the administration.

It is now quite clear that CY Leung is trying to drive a wedge between the pro-independence camp and the traditional democrats.

So this new requirement being implemented by the electoral commission may not really be a political loyalty check ordered by Beijing but a devise by CY Leung to sow disunity and suspicion within the ranks of the opposition.

Hong Kong people, who have been deprived of a real choice in the chief executive election, should make their voices heard in next month's Legco election by voting for candidates who can breathe new life into the old political chamber.

That should help undermine the influence of the pro-Beijing camp in Legco and create a condition that will let CY Leung see the folly of seeking a second term.

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EJ Insight writer