A localist candidate for September’s Legislative Council election has encountered yet another challenge after receiving an email from the returning officer asking for his stance on the independence of Hong Kong, in order to determine whether his nomination would be accepted.

“Do you admit that, although you signed the declaration upholding the Basic Law and pledging allegiance to the Hong Kong S.A.R. on the nomination form, you in fact still continue to advocate and promote Hong Kong independence?” the email, sent to Edward Leung Tin-kei of Hong Kong Indigenous, said. It was sent at 11am on Friday – he was allowed 24 hours to answer.

Leung said it was “clear political censorship.” At around 10:50am on Saturday, he asked for the deadline to be extended until Wednesday morning, as it was a complicated legal issue and he has yet to be able to discuss it with his barrister.

Edward Leung Tin-kei
Edward Leung Tin-kei. Photo: Soc Rec.

Leung said the email included several news clippings and social media posts from his group which stated his stance on Hong Kong independence. The clips state that he had said he will promote the idea even after joining the Legislative Council.

Leung added that he called the returning officer 11 times but she did not pick up.

“The People’s Republic of China and the Hong Kong S.A.R. do not want to see a candidate advocating independence entering the LegCo,” he said.

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Asked whether the incident will increase his chances of getting elected, he said he was not optimistic.

“I don’t even know whether I’ll be able to run – whether it will bring benefits, I don’t know how to answer,” he said.

Leung said his solicitor told him he could do two things, including a judicial review after his nomination was rejected, “but when the judicial review is approved, the election will have ended – it’s also a question as to whether it will [even] be approved.”

“My lawyer told me it was the first time Hong Kong – since its establishment – carried out political censorship regarding candidates’ political ideals in an election,” he said.

Another option was to lodge an election petition to challenge the result.

Edward Leung Tin-kei
Edward Leung Tin-kei. Photo: Soc Rec.

He remained tight-lipped at a press conference on Saturday regarding his stance on independence, as he said the returning officer was targeting all of his statements.

He also called off plans to print promotional materials, as it may be costly should he be barred from standing for elections.

But Leung said that he has the freedom to talk about the future of Hong Kong after 2047 even after he declared he would uphold the Basic Law, as it was not clearly laid out in the mini-constitution. The agreement which safeguards the city’s autonomy from China is set to expire in 2047.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.