Executive Council member Ronny Tong says he does not believe disqualified lawmaker Edward Yiu would be ineligible to run in the March Legislative Council by-election.
Yiu won the pro-democracy camp primary election for the Kowloon West constituency on Sunday. But since Yiu was disqualified from the legislature by a court in 2016 over the additional lines he added to his oath of office, pro-Beijing media have suggested he may be barred from running.
Tong, a senior barrister who sits in the government’s top decision-making body, said the Basic Law interpretation issued by Beijing and the court judgment that disqualified Yiu were about the legal issues surrounding the eligibility of a lawmaker taking office. But they did not concern a individual’s eligibility to run.
“Some people may think the two are related, but they are completely different – the laws that are involved are different,” Tong told an RTHK radio programme on Wednesday.
Tong said Yiu’s disqualification was related the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance, and a court judgment by Mr Justice Michael Hartmann regarding “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung’s oath taking in 2004.
“But participation in an election is related to the Legislative Council Ordinance – and there are currently no past court cases about that,” Tong said.
In the 2016 legislative election, civil servants barred five contenders from running because they did not accept the contenders would uphold the Basic Law. Candidates were also asked to sign pledges in which they promise to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
“If you look at court judgments about Edward Yiu, it does not touch on the question of whether he upholds the Basic Law or whether he is loyal to the Hong Kong SAR. I believe these two are the most important factors for returning officers to make a reasonable judgment whether this person fulfilled legal requirements to run.”
“If you look at the Basic Law interpretation and Mr Justice Thomas Au’s judgment, I dont believe you can reach this conclusion [Yiu barred from election].”
Tong also said he did not believe the central government wished to interfere in Hong Kong’s election system.
Former lawmaker Alan Leong said on the programme that if, Yiu was barred, Chief Executive Carrie Lam will have to pay a “a very heavy political price. He said he hoped Tong would reflect his opinion to Lam.
The Demosisto party’s Agnes Chow, who will run in the Hong Kong Island constituency, was also rumoured to be risking disqualification, since her party supports self-determination for Hong Kong people, which Beijing has framed as advocating for Hong Kong independence.
“I have never heard Agnes Chow supporting Hong Kong independence,” Leong said.
Tong said self-determination is not problematic if it is to defend the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong, so that the city can decide on matters within the city’s autonomous power.
“Sometimes when people are emotional they may say something close to independence, sparking responses from Beijing. But frankly, we may be emotional – Beijing may be emotional as well,” he said. “I do hope people can calm down in such disputes, to review calmly whether advocating for self-determination is equal to Hong Kong independence. I don’t think so personally.”