Two localist candidates in the Legislative Council elections have replied to emails from returning officers asking about their stance on Hong Kong independence. Civic Passion’s Alvin Cheng Kam-mun says he has no plans to advocate Hong Kong independence through his run, while the Hong Kong National Party’s Chan Ho-tin has refused to answer and instead asked what the basis was for the question.

Cheng and Chan, who have both supported Hong Kong independence in the past, received emails from returning officers on Monday asking whether they still support the cause. They were given around 24 hours to answer.

hong kong national party chan ho-tin
Chan Ho-tin. File Photo: SocREC screencap, via Facebook.

They received the emails despite having submitted their nomination forms, which contains a declaration that they will uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Cheng has signed up to run in the Hong Kong Island constituency and Chan in New Territories West.

Cheng also signed the new confirmation form issued by the Electoral Affairs Commission confirming that he will uphold three specific articles of the Basic Law which state that Hong Kong is part of China, but Chan has not signed.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Cheng replied to the email from the returning officer on the spot and said he had no plans to advocate Hong Kong independence or nation building with his run. Instead, he said he wished to promote “constitution for all people” and a permanent extension of the Basic Law.

Alvin Cheng Kam-mun
Alvin Cheng Kam-mun. File Photo: Stand News.

He also explained that ideas relating to Hong Kong nation-building came from Chin Wan’s Hong Kong as a City-State, which said Hong Kong should have independent control over its judiciary and its political system, as well as the ability to join international organisations as a member. This is in line with the principles of One Country, Two Systems and Hong Kong’s autonomy, he said.

Cheng added that the returning officer, the Electoral Affairs Commission, and the Registration and Electoral Office should be careful not to destroy the rule of law by following political orders.

Chan Ho-tin Alvin Cheng
Chan Ho-tin (left) and Alvin Cheng (right). File

In contrast, Chan said that he has replied to the returning officer without answering the question of whether he supports and advocates Hong Kong independence. Instead, he asked the returning office what their basis for asking the question was. Chan had been given a deadline of 4pm on Tuesday to reply.

“Your request does not relate to any matter in respect of which you are by law entitled to request information and is irrelevant to the validity of my nomination. If you can inform me on what basis you are entitled to make such request, I will consider it. The political views I hold and advocate are a matter solely for consideration by the voters in the constituency in which I propose to stand, not for you as the Returning Officer,” Chan said in his reply.

He said that signing the confirmation form promising to uphold the Basic Law earlier was a political move and that he still advocated independence and the abolition of the Basic Law.

Chan added that he believed the government was using administrative measures to keep the pro-independence camp out of the legislature and that if he were not allowed to run, it would undermine Hongkongers’ voting rights.

If he could run, he said, he would use the resources and platform of the Legislative Council to promote independence.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.