Election body candidates to lay nationality cards on table

Top News | Michael Shum 20 Apr 2021

Election Committee candidates will have to inform a vetting committee if they hold foreign nationality, says the permanent secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, Roy Tang Yun-kwong.

But Tang said the nationality information will not be accessible to the public, in response to questions from lawmakers during a bills committee discussing local law amendments for the electoral changes set out by Beijing for Hong Kong.

The Chief Executive Election Ordinance says it is permissible for those holding foreign passports to join the Election Committee, but they must be permanent residents.

Tang told lawmakers that after the amendments, the candidate eligibility committee will seek nationality information from candidates before they are allowed to run in elections.

But lawmakers wanted more transparency and asked authorities to require all candidates to declare if they were in possession of a British National (Overseas) passport or other foreign passports before joining the election, information that is accessible to the public.

"If the person does not dare to disclose whether he or she has a foreign nationality while running for public office in Hong Kong, then that person actually should not be qualified to run in the election," said the Federation of Trade Unions' Alice Mak Mei-kuen.

She said if authorities are trying to help candidates conceal such information, "things will be more ugly" if it comes out afterward.

Lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun echoed Mak's sentiment, saying candidates' nationality should not be regarded as a matter of personal privacy.

"The government was more concerned about personal privacy, but we did not even know our Legislative Council president [Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen] had British nationality until he was elected," Tse said. Leung later gave up his British nationality.

"I do hope such an embarrassing situation does not happen again, and election hopefuls' nationality should not be treated as personal privacy, but rather a crucial factor affecting voters' decisions," Tse said.

In response, Erick Tsang Kwok-wai, the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, said he understands the concerns and the government will look into possibilities regarding how such information could be sought from candidates in the nomination form.

Lawmakers also found it unreasonable that members of China's political advisory or legislative body will lose their seats in the Election Committee if they opt not to run again or fail to get reelected.

The law amendments say lawmakers who are also members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference or National People's Congress can only be admitted to the Election Committee as legislative councillors.

That would mean they will not be allowed to run for the 190 out of the 1,500 seats in the Election Committee that are for CPPCC and NPC members, and they will lose both their seats in the Election Committee and Legco if they fail to be reelected or opt out as lawmakers.

Tang confirmed that after discussions with Beijing, those lawmakers will not be allowed to change their capacity to represent another subsector in the Election Committee.

michael.shum@singtaonewscorp.com



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