The presidium of the National People’s Congress deputy election committee of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on Wednesday announced that Kwok Ka-ki, a Civic Party member and legislative councilor, has been deemed unqualified for NPC election because he refused to sign a written declaration pledging allegiance to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. Also disqualified are seven members of a “localist” group, formed after the “Occupy Central” illegal movement, which specialized in publicly harassing people they thought were from the Chinese mainland, even though these candidates had signed the written declaration as required.
The reason Kwok has been disqualified is obvious; he refused to sign the written declaration that he would abide by and protect the nation’s Constitution, as required by relevant rules of procedure for NPC deputy elections throughout the country. The reason the seven “shopping squad”, as they call themselves, members were disqualified is not so easy to see because they did sign the required written declaration. That is why the election committee’s presidium explained in its announcement that spoken and/or written allegiance to the Constitution is required to qualify for NPC deputy election candidacy, but that is not all. Whether one is truly committed to abiding by and protecting the Constitution must be demonstrated in action as well as expression. It is widely known the “shopping squad” was formed to continue the illegal “legacy” of “Occupy” movement. If those seven persons had been deemed qualified for NPC deputy election candidacy simply because they signed the written declaration, it would mean they could have a chance to rekindle the secessionist “Occupy” movement while running for HKSAR deputies to the 13th NPC next spring.
Let’s not forget that requiring hopefuls for NPC deputy election candidacy to sign the written declaration as part of a standing procedure follows the example of a similar written declaration that hopefuls for last year’s Legislative Council election candidacy were required to sign. The measure was designed to protect the country’s Constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law against possible transgression by separatist forces through electoral processes. It has the blessing of the central authorities and aims to ensure integrity of the “one country, two systems” principle.
On Nov 7 last year the NPC Standing Committee issued a legally binding interpretation to Article 104 of the Basic Law, which stipulates: “The taking of the oath stipulated by Article 104 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China is a legal pledge made by the public officers specified in the article to the People’s Republic of China and its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and is legally binding. The oath taker must sincerely believe in and strictly abide by the relevant oath prescribed by law. An oath taker who makes a false oath or who, after taking the oath, engages in conduct in breach of the oath, shall bear legal responsibility in accordance with law.”
The NPCSC interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law applies in spirit to the election of HKSAR deputies to the 13th NPC, specifically to the required written pledge of allegiance to the Constitution of the PRC that hopefuls must sign to qualify as election candidates. That also means anyone who signs the written pledge without meaning to honor it will be disqualified as NPC deputy election candidate.
The NPC is the country’s highest institution of State power. It is a matter of course for every NPC deputy to uphold the Constitution. In order to become an NPC deputy candidates must prove commitment to upholding the Constitution beyond reasonable doubt.
The seven members of the “shopping squad” who signed the written pledge in their bid to enter the NPC deputy election have not shown, since the illegal “Occupy” movement ended three years ago, that they have abandoned their unconstitutional pursuit. Neither have they proved in any believable fashion that they sincerely abide by and uphold the Constitution. That means they gave people no reason to trust them with NPC deputy election candidacy. As such the election committee presidium is duty-bound to disqualify them.
As a core member of the Civic Party Kwok’s refusal to sign the written declaration indicates the “pan-democrats” have no intention of abandoning their descent into extreme radicalism at this point. Meanwhile, opposition parties and separatist groups let the public know in multiple ways that they are as opposed to the central government and the Basic Law as ever, if not more so. For example, at a recent LegCo by-election forum for opposition hopefuls eyeing four seats, speakers invariably bragged about their aversion to what Beijing stands for – “one country” — as opposed to “two systems”. In other words, the opposition parties don’t have the wisdom or guts to oppose separatism for real. That is why their attempts to enter NPC deputy election must be thwarted no matter what.
(The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings)
(Published on Page 7, China Daily Hong Kong Edition, December 14, 2017)