Pan-dem primaries to push ahead despite warning

Top News | Michael Shum 10 Jul 2020

The pro-democracy camp is pressing ahead with primaries for the Legislative Council election despite warnings that these may breach the national security law.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai said the primaries could breach the clauses on secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces.

But one of the organizers of the primaries, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, was unconvinced, saying Tsang interpreted the law arbitrarily to serve a political purpose.

The warning came days before the primaries this weekend. The pan-democratic camp hopes to win a majority in the Legco election on September 6.

In an interview with Chinese newspapers, Tsang said the primaries may breach three articles in the newly implemented law. Authorities are looking into related complaints, he added.

Article 20 of the law states that acts separating the SAR from China constitutes an offense. Article 22, on subversion, prohibits behaviors that "seriously interfere in the SAR government performing its duties and functions." Article 29 prohibits collusion with foreign forces in manipulating elections.

In a press conference yesterday, Tai, a legal scholar, disagreed that the primaries would breach the three articles.

"Candidates and [organizers] are not advocating secession," he said.

"Our objective is to veto the budget after getting the majority in Legco and to hold the SAR government accountable. [Vetoing the budget] is a power given to Legco under the Basic Law."

The University of Hong Kong associate law professor added that the funding to organize the primaries are raised locally via crowdfunding and should not constitute collusion with foreign forces.

Tai noted that it is the personal decision of voters and candidates to take part in the primaries and that organizers cannot be accused of manipulating elections.

"If secretary Tsang arbitrarily interprets provisions to suit his political needs, he can draw very ridiculous conclusions. Even a civil referendum could be considered a violation of the law," he said.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, a Basic Law Committee member, said primaries should ordinarily be allowed under the law. But, she added, these would breach the law if they were aimed at paralyzing Legco and vetoing the budget to subvert the government.

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