HK opposition parties warned weekend primary could break national security and election laws

10-Jul-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister has warned opposition parties their primary election this weekend could break the new national security law, as well as the city’s election laws.

But Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai’s warning was dismissed by Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a key organiser of the primary.

Optimistic after a landslide victory in last November’s district council elections, the opposition said it planned to begin its new primary process this weekend as it narrowed down its field of candidates ahead of September’s vote.

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About 250 booths would be set up across the city’s five geographical constituencies on roadsides, at district councillors’ offices, and in so-called yellow shops, those publicly identifying with the protest movement.

In an interview published by several pro-Beijing newspapers on Thursday, Tsang said some residents had complained to electoral authorities and the privacy commissioner’s office about the legality of the primary.

He said the complainants were concerned whether organisers of the primary were trying to rig or undermine the Legislative Council elections in September.

Complainants also said candidates in the primary had vowed to vote down the government’s budget and paralyse the city’s administration, if their camp managed to win a historic majority.

“Under Article 22 of the law, it is wrong to seriously interfere, disrupt or undermine the performance of duties and functions by the central or local governments,” Tsang said. “But whether it would constitute a crime would depend on many factors, such as the evidence gathered and actual situation.”

Without elaborating, the minister also said the primary could break articles 20 and 29 of the new law, which prohibit acts of secession and collusion with external forces to endanger national security.

Tsang said under the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance, everyone who had declared his intention to run for the Legislative Council would be considered a candidate, and had to abide by the election expenses limit of their respective constituencies which ranged from HK$2 million to HK$3.3 million per candidate.

Writing on his Facebook page on Thursday, Tai said the primary was not meant to undermine the September elections.

“It was only for residents to express which teams they would support in representing the camp to take part in the official polls,” he wrote. “No one could manipulate so many people in making the decision.”

Tai added that Article 22 of the law stated that someone would be guilty of subversion if he organised or took part in acts involving force or unlawful means.

“Candidates in the primary were only agreeing that if they… use lawmakers’ powers to vote down the budget, the city’s government would be held accountable to the legislature. That cannot be unlawful,” he said.

Tai also said the primary would not involve any call for Hong Kong to be separated from China, so it could not break the secession clause under Article 20.

“The money to be used in the primary was gathered from local crowdfunding, not from external organisations,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Research Association, a pro-Beijing group, said they interviewed about 1,100 residents from July 2 to July 5, and found 66 per cent of respondents were supportive or very supportive of the national security law.

That was 9 percentage points higher than the association’s previous opinion poll last month.


Category: Hong Kong

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