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Thursday, August 4, 2016, 00:06

Leaders support rejecting ‘inappropriate’ candidates

By Joseph Li

HONG KONG - Political leaders voiced their support on Wednesday for returning officers’ legal authority to reject people not eligible to become candidates in September’s Legislative Council election.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung defended the authority of returning officers - who have rejected six nominated candidates in the LegCo election.

One of the six, Edward Leung Tin-kei from a localist, pro-independence group, was among radical protesters who stormed a briefing session of the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) on Tuesday night until police restored order.

Retiring legislator and former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong Tam Yiu-chung agreed with the justice secretary. He said the returning officer had the legal authority to declare people ineligible for elections.

“The Basic Law does not permit ‘Hong Kong independence'. People who want independence shall not become lawmakers or even run in elections,” he said.

As to whether the matter would require an interpretation by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), Tam says it is too early to say.

“It depends on the ruling of the court. If the case goes to the Court of Final Appeal, the court may seek a clarification from the NPCSC as to areas concerning the relations between the central government and the Hong Kong SAR before the ultimate ruling in accordance with Article 158 of the Basic Law,” he said.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Yuen said the returning officer explained to him the reasons for making Leung’s nomination invalid. He said this decision had solid legal grounds.

Candidates are required by the EAC to sign a form acknowledging Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China – as well as a standard declaration form.

Thus, returning officers had the right to consider whether previous statements by candidates contradicted this pledge, Yuen said.

Yuen stressed that the Basic Law stipulates that anyone advocating “Hong Kong independence” is not complying with the law in the first place. They are therefore incapable of fulfilling the pledge to uphold the law, required by all elected lawmakers when they are sworn in.

Executive Councilor Cheung Chi-kong also expressed support for the justice secretary, saying the returning officer has the authority to do so and this authority has a legal basis.

He added, “Senior Counsel Ronny Tong Ka-wah has quoted the relevant ordinance and formed the view that those people are not deprived of the right to run in elections. They just do not meet the requirements to be election candidates.”

Cheung, who is also executive director of One Country Two Systems Research Institute, said the returning officer judged whether a person was involved in “Hong Kong independence” based on what he has said and done. Although Edward Leung claimed he changed his pro-independence stance last week and maintained he upheld the Basic Law, Cheung thought Leung was not saying what he really meant. This was in order to deceive the returning officer.

“You can see now his real face that after he is rejected, he said he would start a revolution,” Cheung said.

Yin Xiaojing, deputy director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR, called on Hong Kong people to denounce separatist advocates.

Yin was speaking on Wednesday at a preparatory event for the celebrations in the city of the 67th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. Yin said promoting “Hong Kong independence” goes against the Basic Law and the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. It, therefore, hurts the fundamental interests of the city’s 7.3 million residents.

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