Hong Kong Asks Legislature Candidates to Recognize Chinese Ruleby
Contenders must understand city is ‘inalienable’ part of China
Latest attempt to deter hopefuls who advocate indendence
Candidates for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections will be required to sign a form saying they understand the city is an inalienable part of China, the latest bid by the government to deter candidates who advocate independence.
Contenders for in the Sept. 4 vote must declare they uphold the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. They will now need to sign a further form confirming they fully understand the Basic Law articles that detail the city’s position as an administrative region of China, the election commission said on Thursday in a statement.
“Anyone making a false declaration in the nomination form is liable to criminal sanction,” the commission said.
“The government is obviously targeting candidates that are running on an independence platform,” said Michael Davis, a professor of constitutional law at Hong Kong University. “Even if someone signs the confirmation acknowledging the government’s interpretation, it would still be subject to question in the courts.”
Calls for independence from China have gained traction since the 2014 pro-democracy “Occupy Central” protests failed to win government concessions for what was to be the city’s direct election for chief executive next year. The movement has grown with concerns over whether the Communist Party leaders in Beijing were encroaching on the autonomy guaranteed the city when the U.K. handed it back in 1997.
The Hong Kong government didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the confirmation form.
In March, the Hong Kong government threatened to bar the formation of a political party advocating independence from China. Ahead of a February by-election, the election commission declined to grant candidates the privilege of a free mailing if the material contained references to self-determination or independence.
Edward Leung Tin-kei, an independence advocate who’s considering a run for LegCo, said he decided not to sign the confirmation form after getting legal advice, and would seek a judicial review, the South China Morning Post reported. Leung won an unexpectedly high number of votes in the February by-election, raising the possibility that parties seeking independence may gain ground in September.
Davis, of Hong Kong University, said it would be difficult to quash debate about the city’s future because the legal guarantee that Hong Kong can operate under a capitalist system runs out in 2047.
“I am not sure whether these tactics by the Hong Kong government are prudent,” he said. “How much pressure does it want to put on independent voices? It usually backfires.”