Saturday, 27 January 2018

Where's Hong Kong's "High Degree of Autonomy"?

Agnes Chow's dreams of running for political office were shut down today
The Hong Kong government is shifting the goal posts again on behalf of Beijing, this time in an upcoming by-election.

You may recall six pro-democracy lawmakers were disqualified from being lawmakers when it was decided that they did not take their oaths of office properly.

One person who wanted to run in the race was Demosisto's Agnes Chow Ting, but today she found out she was rejected as a candidate.

The reason?

Lam claims self-determination is not allowed in Basic Law
Not because she advocated independence -- we know is a complete no-no -- but because she promoted self-determination.

In a statement, the government said:

"Self-determination" or changing the HKSAR system by referendum which includes the choice of independence 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. Upholding the Basic Law is the basic legal duty of a legislator. If a person advocates or promotes self-determination or independence by any means, he or she cannot possibly uphold the Basic Law or fulfill his or her duties as a legislator.

Wait a second. Does the government even understand what a referendum is? A referendum means everyone has a say to vote on an issue in how Hong Kong moves forward. It is not determined by a small group of elites, but democratically through one person, one vote.

But no, the government or Beijing is so terrified of this possibility that it has decided self-determination should not be allowed in Hong Kong.

Joshua Wong says youth will be even more disillustioned
However, the same government statement says earlier:

Article 12 of the Basic Law states that the HKSAR shall be a local administrative region of the PRC, which shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy and come directly under the Central People's Government.

So what does "high degree of autonomy" mean then, if we are not allowed self-determination?

Of course Chow was upset by the decision, saying, "It is obviously a political decision and political screening, and the government is trying to shirk responsibility [by passing it on] to the returning officer, who should be only in charge of executive procedures," she said. "We can see that Hong Kong is not ruled by law or [governed by] the rule of law, but only ruled by the Beijing government."

One of Demosisto's platforms is to have a city-wide referendum on the city's political future, including the option of independence from China.

"The government did not only disqualify Chow, but all members of Demosisto, and even the entire younger generation," says Joshua Wong Chi-fung, the party's co-founder. "I am not certain how many young comrades can stand as candidates in future."

Law professor Johannes Chan says Chow's rejection is illegal
Basically the government has decided Demosisto is an outlaw, that its political thinking is illegal and therefore its candidates are disqualified.

Is this how Chief Executive Carrie Lam thinks she can heal the rift between the generations? She has just inflamed the youth even more.

What is wrong with Chow running in a by-election? What are the chances of her winning? And even if she does win, Legco is still stacked with pro-establishment lawmakers. Why is the government so worried?

Legally the government may not be allowed to do what it just did, according to Michael Davis, a former law professor at the University Hong Kong. He warned Chow's disqualification was wrong and the government was on a "slippery slope", while former university law dean Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun said there was no legal basis for such a move.

A march is planned tomorrow to government headquarters, and in the meantime does Chow have any legal recourse? If so we hope her lawyers are filing the papers now for Monday morning.

The government is fixing the race by changing the rules. How convenient.

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