By Chris Yeung –
It could not be more ironic that it was a senior Chinese official at the Liaison Office who turned out to be honest about the purpose of the new election rules whereas senior Hong Kong officials and the election watchdog were economical about the truth.
Speaking at the weekend, Wang Zhenmin, head of the Liaison Office’s legal affairs department, gave the most detailed and robust defence of the new rule for candidates contesting the September 4 Legislative Council election.
Wang, formerly head of the law school at the Tsinghua University, said the new confirmation note candidates are asked to sign was “reasonable, fair and lawful,” adding it has full legal basis. He said he supported the Government’s move to tackle the question of “pro-independence” activists running for Legco seats.
He said the advocacy of Hong Kong independence implied separating the city from the nation to establish an independent state. It implied abolition of the Basic Law, establishment of a new regime, government and new institutions and refusal to recognise the status of the legislative, executive and judicial bodies.
“You (pro-independence candidates) want to overthrow the whole Hong Kong SAR government. Do we still allow them to contest the Legco election? Is it logical?.
“The participation of those who advocate independence in election is a political act. It is aimed to inject the ideas and manifesto of Hong Kong independence into the SAR’s political process… It will not be permitted by any countries.
“This (new election rule) is a must if we want to strive for peace and stability in the long-term. There may be some adverse political impact. But this is something we must face. We support the Government to face (the criticism) bravely,” said Wang.
Rule a must for long-term peace, stability
The no-holds-barred elaboration of the rationale behind the “anti-independence election rule” by Wang contrasts sharply with the passive defence of election officials.
Except for a denial of political censorship on Thursday after the new rule was announced by the Electoral Affairs Commission, constitutional affairs minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen has kept his head low. Justice Minister Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung was invisible.
Speaking after meeting with some pan-democratic candidates on Tuesday, EAC chairman Fung Wah reiterated in a statement the rule has legal basis.
A pan-democrat who attended the session quoted him as saying the new rule was introduced “for the sake of administrative convenience” for election officers to handle the nominations.
Judging from Wang’s remarks and the elaborations by anonymous pro-establishment figures in some Chinese press, it is clear the new confirmation note is aimed at suppressing the growth of pro-independence thinking by stopping its dissemination by candidates in the Legco election campaign.
One loyalist was quoted as saying Legco is an important political platform. If a pro-independence candidate is elected, he or she can turn Legco into a channel to spread out the message of Hong Kong independence in the next four years.
Never mind the chance of any pro-independence candidates winning a seat is paper thin. Beijing has decided to take no chance. More important, it is eagerly keen to make use of the upcoming Legco election to send a loud and clear message of their attack against pro-independence thinking is no empty talk.
Crackdown against independence no empty talk
Eyebrows were raised when Wang, a Basic Law expert, switched from academia to politics not long ago to become the de facto justice minister at the Central Government’s Liaison Office.
Wang maintained the Government was acting in accordance with the law to introduce the confirmation note.
Earlier, Rimsky Yuen, Secretary for Justice, said they were studying whether the Hong Kong Independence Party has breached any laws.
Publicly, both Chinese and Hong Kong government officials were in one voice dismissing those who advocate Hong Kong independence only represented a tiny fraction of the society.
The likelihood of the pro-independence activists managed to solicit huge donations and mass public support in the society is slim.
But if they receive more support and sympathy, it is because Beijing’s policy towards Hong Kong is going in the wrong direction, creating a breeding ground for the feelings and inclination of separation from the nation.
Chris Yeung is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.
Photo: Picture taken from RTHK news website