Yiu in, Chow out - it's all a political maneuver

Editorial | maryma 30 Jan 2018

It may be a cruel irony but not far from the truth to say ousted lawmaker Edward Yiu Chung-yim should thank student activist Agnes Chow Ting in the latest twist of events in the Legislative Council by-election fiasco.

Almost beyond belief, Chow has turned out to be the one who is barred - rather than Yiu as feared from the beginning - from contesting the March by-election.

This development is a bit weird. Were the case against Chow strong, would it have been touted much earlier that she would be disqualified?

The legal consideration in which "Madame Sorry" Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, the secretary for justice, admitted having played a role in is plainly unconvincing. Otherwise, there wouldn't have been so many legal professionals in the Chief Executive Election Committee decrying the move to bar Chow's candidacy as "unreasonable, unlawful and unconstitutional."

The outcome defies many people's expectation - confirming the long-standing conviction that the choice of who can or can't run is a political decision with legal camouflage. The problem is that the camouflage rendered by "Madame Sorry" is ugly.

It's a cause for concern that the failure to render the disqualification decision a better cover may have an impact on the popularity of the current administration, which had been operating rather smoothly until the illegal structure scandal engulfing Cheng.

Has Chow publicly said she supports independence for Hong Kong? The decision to ban her - as lamely explained by officials - is based on an interpretation of what's said by the association that Chow is affiliated with. It stresses self-determination.

It is a dangerous practice to strip one's fundamental right on the grounds of interpretation, when interpretation is bound to be subjective.

I fear there will be more anger in society when people stop believing elections are fair and open. It's now foreseeable irate voters will turn out in large numbers at polling stations to vote against the establishment in protest on March 11.

Is it politically wise? While there's little Chow could have done to change the course of events inside Legco, her influence will be augmented since her candidacy has been forbidden.

It's just curious the authorities - be they in Beijing, Admiralty, or the Western District - have come to the conclusion they should slam the door in Chow's face, but hold it open for Yiu, who had been stripped of his legislative membership after the courts ousted him over the way he took the oath of office.

There may be plenty of theories for the different treatments. Yet, it can be simply said that after barring Chow from the race, it's considered no longer necessary to deny Yiu. Likewise, if it was so decided that Yiu couldn't run, Chow might have been given the green light.

Otherwise, the backlash could snowball quickly.

From Beijing's perspective, that Chow was targeted helps demonstrate its zero tolerance of independence - even if it's no more than an imagined notion.

Nonetheless, what has happened points to a new development: after imposing selective criteria to screen chief executive candidates, Beijing is introducing new standards to filter candidates for Legco elections - another move to tighten the central government's grip.

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