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Global Times

HK LegCo election may be postponed to next year to ensure fairness: expert

Global Times

By GT staff reporters Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/29 1:25:51

Hong Kong media reported on Tuesday that the Legislative Council (LegCo) election, scheduled for September, would be postponed to next year due to the worsening COVID-19 epidemic situation in Hong Kong, with experts saying if the report is true, it aims to protect the health of the public and ensure a fair environment for residents to elect lawmakers.

News of the postponement came on Tuesday evening as Hong Kong-based media cited an anonymous source to say that the election would be postponed for one year until October 2021.

Lawmaker Chan Kin-por, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) LegCo Finance Committee Chairman, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Hong Kong is facing a very serious epidemic situation, and it is unlikely to be totally controlled in a few months, so the government must consider the difficulties for hundreds of thousands voters of the city to participate in the election and vote.

"In September if the epidemic situation remains serious, many residents would not go out to vote at polling stations, and then the election can hardly be fair. These are all factors that the government and electoral commission must consider," Chan said.

Tian Feilong, a legal expert on Hong Kong affairs at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday the move, if it is true, is a result of taking the public's health of the HKSAR as the priority.

Tian said that he had believed the election would be postponed for only six months. But as this year's election is vital for the future implementation of the "one country, two systems" principle in Hong Kong and the city's management, it is understandable that the HKSAR government is very careful to make sure everything is fair, Tian noted.

Chan further said that the opposition camp will surely oppose the decision because they know that hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents will return from overseas and the mainland to vote, and if the epidemic situation remains uncontrolled, these voters will be quarantined or even choose not to come back and vote, this is truly unfair for the pro-establishment camp.

"The opposition camp only cares about their political goal and totally ignores public health and fairness of the election," he said.

The decision came amid opposition camp politicians hyping the normal reviewing of candidacy for all candidates, as they claimed the review, that requires candidates to clarify their political stance and position on the newly enacted national security law in Hong Kong, is an illegitimate political review.

Experts noted that demanding answers about their position on the national security law for Hong Kong from candidates, and reviewing their candidacy is a legitimate, reasonable and necessary procedure under the guidelines on election-related activities.

Speculation that a growing number of opposition camp candidates would be disqualified in the 2020 LegCo is nothing but a "deliberate misinterpretation" of the law and groundless accusation that central and local governments interfere in the election, they added.

Some pro-separatist camp candidates, including former secretary-general of the secessionist group Demosistō Joshua Wong Chi-fung, received letters from electoral officers demanding a response to critical questions such as whether they support "Hong Kong independence," media reported.

Other candidates, including Civic Party members Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu and Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, said they received letters from the officers seeking answers about their stance on the newly enacted national security law, which sparked their concerns over mass disqualification, as the opposition camp also criticized "electoral authorities for seriously interfering in the election."

But observers said the separatists and some radical opposition camp politicians are trying to stigmatize and misinterpret the election policy to cover their real purpose that tries to paralyze the government and even subvert state power to realize separatism through winning the election.

The enactment of the national security law for Hong Kong does not have a direct influence on the intensity of the review process for candidacy, Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, solicitor of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong and also a candidate for the DAB, the biggest pro-establishment party of the city, for the LegCo election, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"There have always been reviews of candidacy, as civil servants must uphold national laws and the Basic Law, and there were no extra requirements added into the review process, as the national security law for Hong Kong has come into force," Wong said.

Candidates must uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the HKSAR, according to the guidelines on the election-related activities with respect to the LegCo Election. As the national security law for Hong Kong has been included in Annex III of the Basic Law, it is reasonable to ask whether they uphold the national security law as part of the Basic Law, according to Tian.

"This is a game of concepts. It's not called a 'political review' but a review in accordance with the law," Tian said, noting that the ultimate goal of the election is to select qualified lawmakers to serve the HKSAR and safeguard the Basic Law.

"How can they take part in the election if they are against 'one country, two systems' and attempt to subvert state power? " Tian asked.

Meanwhile, the power of electoral officers to disqualify non-eligible candidates is also long-existing and lawful, legal experts said. "The national security law for Hong Kong adds no enforcement to it whatsoever," Wong said.

A number of factors will be considered by electoral officers to disqualify candidates, including their past words and deeds, while experts believe that there will not be mass disqualifications this year as the Basic Law ensures a democratic election procedure.

"Whether it's a false statement or hypocritical show of support to the HKSAR government or the national security law for Hong Kong, the electoral officers would consider not only what candidates say but also what they do," Tian said.

Some believe that this year's candidacy review is stricter than it was in past years. "This is probably because of the changing situation. Candidates used to stoop to new lows in the past, which is not supposed to happen again this year," Wong said.

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