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Monday, August 15, 2016, 01:38

Maria Tam backs disqualification of separatist nominees

By Joseph Li
Maria Tam backs disqualification of separatist nominees
Maria Tam Wai-chu, a member of the Hong Kong SAR Basic Law Committee, has thrown her weight behind the returning officers in rejecting Legislative Council election nominees who support “Hong Kong independence”, calling their decision “right and lawful”. (Roy Liu / China Daily)

Maria Tam Wai-chu, a member of the Hong Kong SAR Basic Law Committee, has thrown her weight behind the returning officers in rejecting Legislative Council election nominees who support “Hong Kong independence”, calling their decision “right and lawful”.

In an interview with China Daily, Tam highlighted Articles 1 and 12 of the Basic Law as relevant to the election. While Article 1 says Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China, Article 12 specifies that the HKSAR is a local administrative region that enjoys a high degree of autonomy and comes directly under the Central People’s Government.

An election nominee, as required by Section 40(1) (b) (i) of the Legislative Council Ordinance, shall sign a nomination form, which includes a declaration to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the HKSAR.

If elected, the person is required to take an oath to reaffirm his or her pledges in accordance with Article 104 of the Basic Law.

“For the purpose of a fair, open and honest election, the government has the responsibility to ensure that people understand their duties and legal requirements as election candidates. A new confirmation form is therefore introduced to serve this purpose,” she said.

In the past, nominees were deemed to have completed the nomination procedure after having filled the nomination forms.

“The (new) confirmation form is necessary owing to the growing voices for ‘independence, self-determination and localism’ in recent months. In particular, some people backing ‘independence’ are eager to join the LegCo election and openly advocate their political agenda,” Tam said.

“The confirmation form is fair, reasonable and legal. It is also fair to the nominees, who should only sign it if they understand the requirements, and if they wish to run in the election, they should sign it. If they fail to comply with the obligations after signing it, they may be prosecuted for making a false declaration,” she added.

Tam reckons that the returning officers are empowered by law to decide if the nominees fulfill the requirements to become valid candidates.

“They exercise administrative power but not judiciary power. It is wrong for some to say the returning officers have replaced the judges because the ultimate power rests with the judges.”

Commenting on localist Edward Leung Tin-kei, whose nomination was declared invalid although he claimed he had abandoned his pro-independence stance and signed the confirmation form, Tam said: “The returning officer had made the decision very carefully with reference to what he did and he had said on Facebook, and to the media over a period of time, but not what he said on a certain day.”

As to why the confirmation form was only introduced two days before the nomination period, she said the Electoral Affairs Commission needed time to think over it carefully to ensure the confirmation form had solid legal basis.

Tam said the six people whose nominations were declared invalid may take the case to court after next month’s elections if they are not satisfied, adding that the courts can handle it without having to seek an interpretation of the Basic Law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

She further pointed out that the confirmation form has nothing to do with freedom of expression enjoyed by ordinary people.

“If people run in the election and win, they have the power to legislate and so they must uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the HKSAR, while ordinary people don’t have such legislative power. If ordinary people advocate independence with action or incite other people, that will be a criminal offense but that has nothing to do with elections,” she pointed out.

Tam said she is aware that some people argue that backing “independence” will not become a mainstream. But, if people advocate independence in the Legislative Council, it will cause very serious harm to society. So, it’s important to prevent it from spreading like an infectious disease because there is no local legislation to curb secession — an offense under Article 23 of the Basic Law.

joseph@chinadailyhk.com

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