Barnabas Fung’s idea of an extra declaration for LegCo candidates is another way to alienate citizenry from the Basic Law.
Who doesn’t have their favourite parts of the Basic Law? I sure do, and so does The Hon. Judge Barnabas Fung (馮驊)! But by putting too fine a point on territorial integrity, he is taking another step to breaking the people’s commitment to the Basic Law.
Mr Fung took on the role of Election Commissioner seven years and it took him that long to decide on his really really favourite part of the Basic Law. He decided to add an extra dimension to the current declaration that all LegCo applicants have always made, to uphold the Basic Law (Cap 542, Section 40). He has seen fit to impose his own Fave Picks from the Basic Law on candidates running for LegCo, demanding they sign a new form affirming their commitment to Article 12. To wit, “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be a local administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, which shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy and come directly under the Central People’s Government.”
Pick favourites, deny candidates
I’ve got a few extra declarations I would like to see from candidates for LegCo and Chief Executive, since we’re in the mood to strip political undesirables of eligibility to run. Given our Election Committee chooses the Chief Executive, let’s put this on them list too. Since our mysterious Registration and Electoral Affairs CEO, Mr Li Pak-hong (李柏康), will implement this mandate, hopefully we’ve got his attention too.
Socialists be gone!
Article 5 states, “The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years.”
Hello socialists! Who in the LegCo voted for minimum wage? Everyone (except you Paul Tse 謝偉俊), I know, love you). The constant cries for socialist measures from many of our legislators suggests that another level of screening is needed. While I prefer ‘free market’ to ‘capitalist’ (look it up, there’s a difference), the Basic Law explicitly rules out socialism. It seems to me that many of our legislators are not wholeheartedly supporting Article 5 and need a disqualifier should they be tempted to vote to implement a socialist system in Hong Kong.
It’s my birthday
The 28th is my birthday, so here’s another favourite (since Mr Fung and I are being arbitrary). Article 28 states, “The freedom of the person of Hong Kong residents shall be inviolable. No Hong Kong resident shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful arrest, detention or imprisonment. Arbitrary or unlawful search of the body of any resident or deprivation or restriction of the freedom of the person shall be prohibited. Torture of any resident or arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of the life of any resident shall be prohibited.”
Perhaps candidates need to commit to supporting legislation to make it clear to persons from outside Hong Kong that ‘arbitrary or unlawful arrest’ is a big no-no here. While Batman’s snatch and grab was fun in the movies, bookseller snatchings are less entertaining. Leaders, from LegCo to the Chief Executive in the current election cycle, need to recommit to protecting Hong Kongers.
An old friend and district councillor, Raymond Ho Man-kit (何民傑), is great about reminding people about Article 107: “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall follow the principle of keeping the expenditure within the limits of revenues in drawing up its budget, and strive to achieve a fiscal balance, avoid deficits and keep the budget commensurate with the growth rate of its gross domestic product.”
Let’s have a declaration that LegCo members will not vote for a surplus or deficit budget. Neither will Chief Executives approve a budget more than, say, 10% out of balance, and make a commitment to return surpluses to the people. If they don’t sign, they don’t run!
Candidates, free the milk powder, universities
Article 115 states “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall pursue the policy of free trade and safeguard the free movement of goods, intangible assets and capital.” Why not milk powder? I want it in writing.
Article 137: Educational institutions of all kinds may retain their autonomy and enjoy academic freedom. Let’s demand our next Chief Executive candidates sign a declaration to stay out of universities, including the appointment of university council Chairs.
The list could go on and on as Mr Fung, myself, and everyone has their own favourite declarations. Ultimately, however, the most important article is Article 26:
“Permanent residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall have the right to vote and the right to stand for election in accordance with law.”
This article suggests that now and future Commissioners cannot just pick their favourites, either on their own volition or from a whisper in the ear. While it may be fine for an Editor to whimsically suggest what political restrictions he would like to put on theoretical candidates, it is another matter when an influential jurist and Chair of the Commission suggests putting real, and totally arbitrary, restrictions on candidates.
This is another disheartening attack on Hong Kong’s struggling democracy in a time of chopped up editors, snatched booksellers, dismissed graft-busters, compromised universities and more. When Basic Law articles relating to freedom of press, our capitalist system, and the ability to participate in elections and governance are so feebly defended from our political elite, is it any wonder some of the disaffected citizenry may question other elements of the Basic Law.
All LegCo and Chief Executive candidates do, and always have, committed to support the Basic Law. Don’t seek to put too fine a point on that pencil, or it will surely break.
Choose your own! Tell us what declaration you would like all candidates to make on pain of disqualification!
He has run The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, founded The Lion Rock Institute and has over 25 years engagement in media, politics, policy and community engagement.
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