It happened again. Yet another candidate has been disqualified from contesting an election in Hong Kong for their political stance, the 10th time since 2016.
Though, for the first time, the disqualification was for a rural race, suggesting the government’s “red line” of candidates considered palatable is shifting further.
Lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick was informed yesterday his nomination for the non-indigenous villagers’ head post at Yuen Kong Sun Tsuen, a village in Yuen Long, was invalid, according to Apple Daily.
The lawmaker, a founder of the Land Justice League, was told this was because he had, since 2016, “implicitly” maintained his support for self-determination, a position that the government has equated with independence advocacy, which, they state, is against Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
The ruling by the electoral officer — which the lawmaker uploaded to Facebook — was delivered despite Chu having been sworn in as a lawmaker for the New Territories West in 2016 and, thus, having taken his oath of office to uphold the Basic Law without any objections.
But, the returning officer claimed this wasn’t relevant as “each case must be considered and assessed at the time of the nomination.”
According to HK01, Chu had faced questioning by the officer over his stance on self-determination for Hong Kong and whether he supported independence — which he said he did not.
In a statement released last night, the government said that it supported the decision and rejected suggestions of it violated the right to stand for elections or amounted to political censorship.
“Advocating self-determination or independence as an option for the city is inconsistent with the constitutional and legal status of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as stipulated in the Basic Law, as well as the established basic policies of the People’s Republic of China regarding Hong Kong,” it read.
“The Returning Officer’s decision aims to ensure the Rural Election is held in strict accordance with the Basic Law and other applicable laws in an open, honest and fair manner.”
However, holding a press conference, Chu said he had not advocated for independence and accused the government of “moving the goalposts”, saying he would consult with his legal team about the path forward.
“I have not changed. The ones that moved the goalposts are the Special Administrative Region government, and the liaison office, and Beijing, which has been manipulating the SAR government behind the scenes,” he said.
Like elections at the district council and legislative levels, candidates for village leader posts are required to declare their allegiance to Hong Kong SAR, and state they would uphold the Basic Law in their application to electoral officials.
However, no candidate for a village election has been barred under this requirement, reported the SCMP.
But, more broadly, nine other candidates have been barred from contesting legislative seats on the basis of their previous remarks on either “self-determination” or independence.
Most recently, former lawmaker Lau Siu-lai — among six legislators kicked out of their seats for improper oath taking — was denied the chance to challenge for her old constituency. Prominent political activist Anges Chow was also disqualified from contesting a Legco by-election.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo slammed the most recent disqualification as evidence of a “noose around the neck” of politicians in the city, RTHK reports.
“Hongkongers are supposed to come under the protection of all freedoms under the Basic Law. But now literally, practically [the government has] put a noose around our necks. Whether it goes tighter or looser is all subject to the authority’s whims,” she said.
There are 1,540 village representative seats in total. Nominations for the election closed last month. The election is set for January 6.