Buck stops with returning officer

Top News | Phoenix Un 1 Feb 2018

Carrie Lam says she did not play any part in the disqualification of Agnes Chow Ting from the legislature by-election and she cannot say if the budding politician or her party Demosisto will be allowed to contest future polls.

Lam was greeted at Legco by pan-democrat legislators shouting "Oppose unreasonable disqualification! Shame on political persecution!"

It was the first time legislators could question Lam over Chow's disqualification from the Hong Kong Island by-election.

Casting doubts on the government's claim that the disqualification was entirely the decision of returning officer Anne Teng Yu-yan, Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu asked: "Can you tell all Hongkongers that, as the chief executive, you had no part in the disqualification at all?"

Lam reiterated that returning officers had the legal authority to decide the qualification of candidates, and she herself was not part of the decision-making.

"I was not in Hong Kong when the decision to disqualify that person you mentioned was made. I was in Switzerland attending an economic forum [in Davos]," Lam said.

She also denied Yeung's allegation that she kept herself out of the dispute, saying "I am not the person with the power [to disqualify] and I won't intervene."

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai accused her of shifting the blame to the returning officer, and said nobody would believe that "the returning officer is [more powerful than the central government liaison office]."

Wu also demanded that Lam answer the question of whether the ban on Chow and her Demosisto comrades would be lifelong, adding: "In what situation can Demosisto members join elections? Should they write a repentance letter as mainland criminals do?"

Lam said decisions on whether candidates are eligible will be made each time before an election in accordance with the laws and facts then.

"You are imposing a difficult task on me as nobody - including returning officers, who have the power to disqualify - can tell who will be eligible and who won't," Lam said.

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