Chief Executive Carrie Lam has denied any involvement in the decision to disqualify Demosisto candidate Agnes Chow from running in the legislative by-election.
Chow was barred on Saturday over her association with the party, which supports self-determination for Hong Kong people. The government said in a press release: “If a person advocates or promotes self-determination or independence by any means, he or she cannot possibly uphold the Basic Law or fulfil his or her duties as a legislator.”
Lam said election officers only look at the facts and will ask for legal advice from the Department of Justice when there are doubts. She was responding to lawmakers’ questions at the first monthly 30-minute question and answer session at the Legislative Council on Wednesday.
“I was not here for the entire week. I was in Switzerland attending the World Economic Forum,” she said. “The law is clear. The facts are clear. It seems there is no need for other people – especially me – to participate.”
“But I can tell you that as chief executive, I will not shift [responsibility] if there are incidents on which I need to give advice.”
Asked by Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung to clarify, she said: “From considering the candidacy of the applicant to the announcement, I was not in Hong Kong and I did not participate in the process.”
Lam also repeated comments she made on Tuesday denying that Chow was barred for her political affiliation only.
“If the political affiliation makes the election officer unable to believe that a candidate truly upholds the Basic Law and pledges allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR, the candidate will lose eligibility in accordance with the law,” she said.
Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wai asked if members of Chow’s Demosisto party will be banned from running forever: “Do they have to sign a statement of repentance like in the mainland?”
Lam said each election will be independent: “No one can tell you who can run in the future or who cannot.”
She cited Article 26 of the Basic Law which stipulates: “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.”
“Thus in every election we have to look at the legal requirement at the time, the facts and the evidence. I cannot promise here that the laws will not change,” she said.
Asked by People Power lawmaker Ray Chan about her confidence in the scandal-hit Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, Lam said: “I would not have recommended her for the position if I had any doubts. Of course I trust her.”
Chan then asked if Lam believed that Cheng made a false claim as she signed a mortgage document which did not mention an unauthorised basement.
Lam said she cannot answer the question: “I have no experience in the transaction of properties in Hong Kong. As you know I do not have properties [in Hong Kong].”
“You may think it is difficult to imagine that someone did not pay enough attention when she was so busy with public business – but I feel the same myself. Sometimes I forget my personal issues because of busy public affairs,” she said. “I hope people take a forgiving and tolerant attitude.”