Real Hong Kong News
16th February, 2016
Localist Legislative Council Candidate Banned from Sending Election Materials
The New Territories East Legislative Council By-election will be held on 28th February. The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Ronny Tong Ka-wah on 22nd June 2016 – soon after the electoral reform proposal submitted by the HKSAR Government failed to pass (Tong’s stance on the proposal is heavily criticised by the pan-democrats).
There are all together seven candidates standing at the upcoming by-election:
- Holden Chow Ho-ding (DAB)
- Christine Fong Kwok-shan (independent, previously Liberal Party)
- Lau Chi-sing (nonpartisan)
- Albert Leung Sze-ho (independent)
- Edward Leung Tin-kei (Hong Kong Indigenous)
- Nelson Wong Sing-chi (Third Side, formerly Democratic Party)
- Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu (Civic Party)
During the nomination period, Youngspiration (another new political organisation which stood in the latest District Council election in November and won one seat) proposed a mock-election between Civic Party and the localist groups to better understand voters’ preference – in order to maximise voters’ power in the by-election, but the proposal was rejected by the pan-democrats.
Most debates amongst the pro-democracy Hongkongers are focusing on the two candidates Alvin Yeung and Edward Leung. Whilst some hold the view that Leung is “splitting the votes of the pan-democrats” and “radical”, others think Yeung should drop out on the grounds that the Civic Party was the cause of this by-election, and that it helped pass the Legislative Council’s Rule of Procedures authorising the chairman of any subcommittee to throw any legislator out of the hall (see below voting record) and “a change has to happen in the Legislative Council, which is no longer functioning”.
It seems that Edward Leung is the target in this election as his campaign banners across the constituency have been sabotaged.
Despite all the debate, the most controversial issue is the letter issued by the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) on 16th February: After Leung – a university student and Hong Kong Indigenous candidate – asked for help on social media, individuals volunteered for days to finish affixing address labels to 550,000 pamphlets comprising the bulk of his election materials. Leung has now received a letter from the REO saying that his campaign leaflet violated the Basic Law and that he would therefore not receive the statutorily mandated free postal service (in Traditional Chinese only).
Below is the statement issued by Hong Kong Indigenous in response to the REO letter (translated by Real Hong Kong News team):
Registration and Electoral Office Abuses Power, Tramples on Freedom; High Degree of Autonomy Vanishes
The Registration and Electoral Office (REO) has denied free postage for electoral mail prepared by Edward Leung Tin-kei, the No. 6 candidate in the 2016 Legislative Council New Territories East geographical constituency by-election, claiming that the election mail “fundamentally contravenes” Article 1 of the Basic Law. The REO has ordered that deemed words including “autonomy” and “self-governing” as “sensitive” and ordered their deletion from the materials. The factual illustration of the history of Hong Kong is also being described as illegal. Hong Kong Indigenous and Edward Leung denounce REO’s violation of the Basic Law which enshrines people’s freedom of speech and of publication, and the REO’s attempt to politically interfere and influence election results via administrative means.
Mr Leung’s campaign manager from the Hong Kong Indigenous (HKI) party received an email from Hong Kong Post on 15th February saying that after taking “legal advice”, the REO rejected the election mail sample submitted by HKI on 4th February (before the deadline of free postage for election mail). Hong Kong Post thus refused to post Edward Leung’s election mail for free. This is a form of political censorship against Edward Leung and HKI’s political platform and ideology. It is HKI’s view that the REO’s action amounts to announcing that “One Country Two Systems” and the freedom of speech and of publication in Hong Kong have vanished. REO’s rejection of the election mail also denies Edward Leung’s rights to express his political views and severely damages the rights of the electorate of the New Territories East Geographical Constituency to participate in a free, democratic election. Below is the list of the words used in Edward Leung’s election mail which are deemed “sensitive” by the REO:
- “autonomy” is deemed to have violated the principle of “high degree of autonomy” to be exercised in Hong Kong SAR as described in the Basic Law;
- “self-determination (after 2047)” is deemed to have violated Article 1 of the Basic Law;
- Hong Kong has “a history different from that of China” is deemed illegal;
- “autonomy” used in the section about public resources including drinking water and local agricultural industry is deemed to have violated the Basic Law’s Article 1 which stipulates that “The Hong Kong SAR is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China”;
- “fight with valour”, “challenge status quo and fight suppression with action”, and other political ideology of HKI are “suspected to encourage violence to achieve its goals”.
Autonomy and Self-Governance – Cherished by Hongkongers
Distortion of History Angers All
HKI thinks that autonomy and self-governance are two cherished values of Hongkongers, and that since they are enshrined in the Basic Law, they should therefore not be deemed as “sensitive” and used as a reason to reject the free postage of our election materials. Under the public resources section of Edward Leung’s political platform, it mentions that Hong Kong must be “self-sufficient and self-governing”. That this section merely talks about water desalination plants and agricultural industry in Hong Kong, in line with existing HKSAR policies, yet is deemed illegal by the HKSAR government, is ludicrous.
What is even more absurd is that the REO censored and banned an illustration of a historical fact about Hong Kong, namely that Hong Kong “has a history different from that of China”. This outrageous distortion of history committed by REO is simply not acceptable. Last but not least, “fight with valour” and “challenge status quo and fight suppression with action” are political ideologies that do not involve any illegal activities. That even ideologies can be “suspected to encourage violence to achieve its goals” has shown that “thoughtcrime” has now become a punishable offence.
HKSAR Government Abuses Power, HKI Demands Apologies
Article 26 of the Basic Law stipulates that “permanent residents of the Hong Kong SAR shall have the right to vote and the right to stand for election in accordance with law”, and Article 27 stipulates that “Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike”. As the REO has intervened in an open election via administrative means and distorted the meaning of the Basic Law to make the above absurd accusations, it violates the freedoms of speech and of publication enshrined by the Basic Law. Given that a similar case happened during the 2015 District Council Election, HKI and Edward Leung (candidate of the upcoming Legislative Council New Territories East Geographical Constituency By-election) now demand that the REO:
- Withdraw the rejection letter issued to Leung and provide free postage, as provided to other candidates in this by-election, for Edward Leung to send out his election mail, which is legal and legitimate
- Stop abusing its power to intervene election and apologize to Edward Leung and to the electorate
- Banish all political censorship on election mail from the upcoming 2016 Legislative Council Election
Freedom of Speech – Defended with Action
HKI and Edward Leung will continue to defend Hongkongers’ freedom and rights as always. We will file a complaint against the REO at the Electoral Affairs Commission, and reserve our right to lodge an election petition and apply for judicial review. To safeguard the right to know of all Hongkongers and the New Territories East electorate, we will publish the letter issued by REO mentioned above, with no alteration, and distribute hard copies in the New Territories East constituency. Please visit HKI’s social media page and our street booths for details.
HKI and Edward Leung sincerely ask all organisations and Hong Kong citizens, who care for Hong Kong’s freedom of speech and of publication, to pay attention to this case and proactively share the censored election materials. Otherwise, “One Country, Two Systems” and the freedoms enshrined by the Basic Law will have truly turned into an empty promise as predicted in Edward Leung’s election campaign advertisement.
According to the regulation, a (list of) candidate who is validly nominated is permitted to post one letter to each elector of the constituency free of postage charges.
25th Feb Update:
Edward Leung’s manifesto in English available here