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Tuesday, August 9, 2016, 19:11

Democratic rights bound by national unity: Solicitor

By Li Xiange

The rights to vote and to stand for election are not absolute ones, as they should not go beyond national unity and territorial integrity, said founding president of the Small and Medium Law Firms Association of Hong Kong Maggie Chan Man-ki on Tuesday.

Thus, it is reasonable, legitimate and in line with the law that those who advocate “Hong Kong independence” shall not be allowed to run for the Legislative Council, the solicitor concluded.

Chan was responding to the recent controversy surrounding decisions by returning officers to bar six localists advocating “Hong Kong independence” from joining the coming Sept 4 poll.

According to Article 26 of the Basic Law, permanent residents of Hong Kong shall have the right to vote and the right to stand for election in accordance with the law.

Chan contended that means that those rights should be interpreted in accordance with the aim of upholding national unity and territorial integrity, implementing the “One Country, Two Systems” framework, as well as maintaining the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, along with taking account of Hong Kong’s history and realities.

In fact, Hong Kong is not the only place that practices such a rule. Chan cited a court case against the minister for the Civil Service in the UK, in which the court clearly stated that the court will not intervene in an administrative decision as national security trumps all other considerations in the case.

Chan also cited a local court case – a judicial review in 2014 against the government’s decision to unplug the election rules loophole to prevent unnecessary by-elections triggered by resignations of lawmakers.

In that case, the Hong Kong court ruled that certain discretion should be given to the administration and legislature when considering whether a restriction on the right to stand for election is a legitimate and proportional one.

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