The government has banned pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu from standing in an election for village representative in Yuen Long.
“‘Self-determination’ or advocating independence could be an option for Hong Kong is inconsistent with the constitutional and legal status of the HKSAR as stipulated in the Basic Law, as well as the established basic policies of the PRC regarding Hong Kong,” a government spokesperson said on Sunday evening.
Chu was hoping to enter a race to represent Yuen Kong San Tsuen – a village of 100 constituents in Pat Heung, Yuen Long. But he said he received an email at 5:57 pm on Sunday telling him that his nomination was invalid.
Last month, electoral official Enoch Yuen asked Chu to state his position on Hong Kong independence as part of an interview to gauge his eligibility to stand. The returning officer submitted a second set of questions on Wednesday with a four-hour deadline.
Yuen had asked Chu if he agreed to uphold the Basic Law, agreed to recognise China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, and whether he supported Hong Kong independence.
Chu – who is currently a lawmaker for New Territories West – restated his position that he has never supported Hong Kong independence: “I advocate and support the democratisation of the Basic Law and the political system – including but not limited to amending Article 158 and 159 of the Basic Law – as a goal of Hong Kongers’ self-determination after the Central Government blocked universal suffrage,” he wrote in his second response on Wednesday.
By Thursday, the election process had been put on hold.
Social media posts
The ruling by Yuen cited news articles and social media posts mentioning Chu, as well as Chu’s own social media posts and public statements advocating “democratic self-determination.”
He also cited a 2016 Facebook post by Chu entitled 2016 Joint Declaration: “The contents of the 2016 Joint Declaration, which support independence as an option for Hong Kong people to self-determine their future, does in my view have a bearing on the validity of his nomination.”
Yuen said Chu evaded his questions about his stance on independence: “His answers, when viewed objectively, can be understood as implicitly confirming that he supports that independence could be an option for Hong Kong people in the pretext of exercising the alleged right to advocate independence in a peaceful manner.”
The ruling also said that Chu’s oath of office as a lawmaker in 2016, and his eligibility to run in the legislative election, were not factors in the decision to bar him from the village election race.
Chu issued a response on Facebook on Sunday night saying the returning officer “used the law as a tool to attack political rivals,” and that he would consider taking the matter to court.
“The government’s position is that ‘not opposing others’ advocating independence’ is the same as ‘not upholding the Basic Law,'” Chu wrote.
“Hongkongers must pay attention as to whether Beijing continues to infringe upon our ‘right to remain silent’ – not reporting others will become an excuse for reprisal. This is not just unconstitutional and illegal, but it is also authoritarian intimidation.”
Chu added that Yuen failed to address his argument that returning officers had no authority to conduct political screening.
Chu remains one of the few democracts advocating the notion of self-determination who has yet to be challenged in court by the government.
Other advocates for self-determination, namely Nathan Law of political group Demosisto and Lau Siu-lai of Democracy Groundwork, have been disqualified as lawmakers. Lau and Demosisto’s Agnes Chow were banned from running in by-elections. However, no candidates had been barred from running in a village election over their political stance until Chu’s disqualification.
“I believe people running as village representative should not face such ridiculous political censorship,” Chu told reporters on Wednesday. “I believe this is an abuse of the election officer’s power.”
On Sunday, the government spokesperson said: “There is no question of any political censorship, restriction of the freedom of speech or deprivation of the right to stand for elections as alleged by some members of the community.”
Chu is set to meet the press at 9pm.