Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Law prof. Benny Tai creates new Basic Law declaration for election candidates amid pledge controversy

Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, has created a new confirmation form for Legislative Council election candidates to declare that they will uphold the Basic Law, with emphasis on three articles related to rights and freedoms.

His suggestion came days after the city’s election authority said that candidates for September’s election were required to sign a confirmation form to declare they will uphold three Basic Law articles regarding China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong.

“I think every one in Hong Kong should sign [my form],” Tai – convenor of the Occupy Central movement – wrote. “Those who refuse to sign – I have reasons to doubt whether they truly uphold the Basic Law!”

Benny Tai.

Benny Tai. Photo: HKFP.

Cited by pan-democratic lawmaker Dennis Kwok after a meeting this week, Chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission Justice Barnabas Fung Wah said that candidates may submit their own version of the controversial confirmation form.

Tai’s version of the confirmation form said:

“I sincerely declare that I will uphold the Basic Law, I understand clearly that to uphold the Basic Law means to uphold the Basic Law including the following provisions:

  • Article 26
    Permanent residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall have the right to vote and the right to stand for election in accordance with law.
  • Article 27
    Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike.
  • Article 39
    The provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and international labour conventions as applied to Hong Kong shall remain in force and shall be implemented through the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”

Tai was the original person who proposed occupation of main roads in the financial district in Hong Kong as a means of protest for genuine universal suffrage back in 2013.

Pan-democrats

Pan-democrats holding signs saying they refuse to sign. Photo: Facebook/Dennis Kwok.

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The Electoral Affairs Commission’s form asked candidates to pledge to uphold three articles including number 1, 12 and 159(4) – that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China, that Hong Kong shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy and come directly under the central government, and that no amendment to the Basic Law shall contravene the established basic policies of China regarding Hong Kong.

Fung has said the form has “sound legal basis,” after a meeting this week with the pan-democratic candidates, who refused to sign it, saying that it has no legal basis.

Some localist candidates, who advocate for the independence of Hong Kong from China, and two independent candidates who do not support separation from China, have also refused to sign.

Electoral Affairs Commission chairman Barnabas Fung Wah

Electoral Affairs Commission chairman Barnabas Fung Wah. Photo: Stand News.

Fung has yet to give a straight answer as to whether candidates will be disqualified if they refuse to sign.

A statement from the commission on Tuesday said that returning officers “will seek the advice of the Department of Justice as necessary and take appropriate action to ascertain whether or not the nomination of the candidate concerned has complied with legal requirements.”

Written replies

Citing sources, Now TV reported that returning officers may write to candidates – whose political views violated the Basic Law – before the end of the month to ask them whether they will promise to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The returning officers will determine whether their candidacy will be accepted on the basis of their replies, the sources said.

The news channel was told that their written replies may become court evidence should there be a legal challenge to the government’s decisions.

Law prof. Benny Tai creates new Basic Law declaration for election candidates amid pledge controversy