(File Photo: Stand News)
These are dark days indeed for Hong Kong politics.
Six candidates contesting the upcoming Legislative Council elections have been officially ruled out so far. What sets Edward Leung’s case apart from the rest, is that the decision to ban him from the election has a more overtly political tone with huge implications for Hong Kong’s future.
I understand the necessity for Legislative Council candidates to adhere to the Basic Law – the Legislative Council is part of the establishment, so its members must also follow the rules that it upholds and gives it power. As Article 1 states that the Hong Kong SAR is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China, obviously candidates who explicitly support Hong Kong independence cannot run for office.
(Strangely enough, Mr. Leung and three of the six banned candidates were previously allowed to participate in LegCo and District Council elections.)
The confirmation form was a politically clumsy move, to put it lightly, but the need for a written guarantee somewhat makes sense given this reasoning. However, even after Mr. Leung signed the confirmation form and explicitly stated that he would respect the territorial integrity of the PRC and accept that Hong Kong is part of that entity, he was still banned from participating in the upcoming election.
“I do not trust Mr. Leung genuinely changed his previous stance for independence.”
In other words, the rule-makers have pre-emptively banned a player from taking part in the game, because they think that the player will likely break the rules in the future. This is like declaring the defendant guilty before even presenting the evidence, which is something I (and many others) cannot understand nor accept.
We will never know exactly how the Electoral Affairs Commission came to its decision, but what this decision suggests to the Hong Kong public is extremely worrying. It suggests that while we still have freedom of speech, we will face political consequences should our voices clash with the government’s. It suggests that China appears to now be willing to openly disregard and twist Hong Kong’s rule of law for political objectives, and will become more and more heavy-handed about it in the near future. It suggests that One Country Two Systems, the very policy that allows Hong Kong to exist as it is, is slowly breaking apart well before its expiry date.
These suggestions have weight; the perception of such a dark political future is, in my opinion, more troubling than the actual act of banning candidates from the upcoming election. If the ban was conducted in a transparent way, with a proper legal explanation to the public as to why Mr. Leung could not stand for election, the controversy would be like adding a couple of logs to a fire rather than like pouring gasoline on an already raging inferno. If the public believed that the intentions of the Electoral Affairs Commission and the government were reasonable, the issue would not have blown up into such proportions.
The problem, as with nearly all political problems in the city, stems from the distrust between the Hong Kong government and the public (exacerbated by the Chief Executive), and between Hong Kong and China. The more unstable China sees Hong Kong to be, the more interference it deems necessary; the more China interferes, the more unstable Hong Kong politics becomes. The political atmosphere and discourse in Hong Kong today is a symptom of such self-perpetuating antagonistic relationships. I would like to say that the rift can be bridged some day, but much depends on our next Chief Executive so there is little we can do but watch carefully.
Quick reminder that the LegCo election is on September 4, please make good use of your votes.