Primaries slammed as 'illegal manipulation' of poll process

Top News | Michael Shum 15 Jul 2020

Beijing's office on Hong Kong affairs slammed the pro-democracy camp's primaries as an "illegal manipulation" of election processes.

In a statement yesterday, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said the primaries were a "blatant challenge" to the new national security law and the Basic Law and that it supports SAR authorities in any investigation.

"The so-called primary elections was to coordinate with candidates and to build up momentum for the opposition," it said. "Such behavior is to disregard the laws completely and a serious challenge to the constitutional order in the SAR.

"The primaries also obstruct and undermine Hong Kong's democratic electoral system and will cause unfairness in the upcoming Legislative Council elections."

The Beijing officials also claimed there is no such thing as a primary election or a referendum in the SAR's electoral laws and mini-constitution.

The primaries are a first step by the democratic front to gain a majority in the legislature.

That would mean the pro-democrats could force the chief executive to accept demands including an overhaul of the police force and universal suffrage by threatening to veto the budget.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office also saw "an action to subvert the SAR government and an attempt to take over the authority of the SAR government."

It added: "The primaries are also a serious provocation to the current election system, seriously damaging the fairness and impartiality of the upcoming elections, which will seriously harm the legitimate rights of other candidates."

This came after the Liaison Office in Hong Kong released a statement late on Monday night to claim the primaries were illegal and involved "foreign forces."

Earlier on Monday Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor weighed in to say the primaries could be seen as subversion under the national security law.

But primaries coorganizer and legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting dismissed the claims from both offices, saying on social media last night that the exercise to select candidates among pro-democrats was completely legal.

The allegations from Beijing's offices "are nonsense" and meant to mislead Hongkongers, he said.

The primary election exercise did not have legal validity, he added, "but that does not mean it is illegal."

He said he hopes the central government could see that the 610,000 people who joined in the primary elections "used a peaceful and rational way to express their views through voting."

If the primaries were to be "condemned as breaching the law," he added, "it will make governance even more difficult in the future and provoke even more radical protests."

Another organizer, Au Nok-hin, who is also a former lawmaker, dismissed claims the primaries were a way of manipulating the legislative elections.

He noted that every candidate in the primaries could make a choice on whether to participate or not in the September 6 Legislative Council election.

Au said government officials should listen to different voices and stop the "tyrannical rule" in the SAR.

The Electoral Affairs Commission issued a statement to note there is no such thing as a primary in Hong Kong electoral laws.

The commission said that any person convicted of preventing someone from running in an election faced a seven-year prison term and a HK$500,000 fine.

michael.shum@singtaonewscorp.com

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