Hong Kong will not ask China’s national legislative body for an interpretation of the Basic Law following the controversy over disqualified localist Legislative Council candidates, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung has said.

Yuen’s statements came after speculation that the Hong Kong government may ask Beijing to reinterpret the Basic Law before court rulings can be made on the disqualifications. The move may be made to block any independence advocates from running in future Hong Kong legislative elections. Rejected candidates have said they will take the matter to court through election petitions or file for judicial review.

“The issue can be handled by the legal system in Hong Kong. From the standpoint of the Department of Justice, we will not ask the National People’s Congress to reinterpret the law,” Yuen said at the airport before departing for an official visit to Australia on Monday.

Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and Edward Leung Tin-kei. Photo: Stand News/GovHK.

Yuen said that promotion of Hong Kong independence was not coherent with Hong Kong’s constitutional status, and that even if a pro-independence candidate was elected, he could not take the oath to uphold the Basic Law when he takes office.

Yuen added that the returning officers, who decided to bar the localist candidates from running after questioning their genuineness in upholding the Basic Law, have the power and responsibility by law to do so. Edward Leung Tin-kei of Hong Kong Indigenous was barred even after he claimed not to support Hong Kong independence anymore.

“The returning officer has to look at all of the viewpoints of these candidates, but not a single word. Some people might have mentioned the word ‘Hong Kong independence’ in some situation, but we have to look at the context – we can’t say someone advocates independence because he mentioned it or used it as his election platform,” Yuen said.

Yuen previously said Leung was run in the by-election in February because he had not clearly touched on the issue of independence before then.

Chan Ho-tin of the Hong Kong National Party and Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous. Small photos are the returning officers for the constituencies that they were nominated to run in, who rejected their candidacies. Photo: Apple Daily.

Two people have been arrested so far for allegedly threatening returning officers. Cora Ho Lai-sheung, who disqualified Leung, was sent a threatening letter with a razor blade enclosed.

Yuen said opinions towards returning officers should be expressed through legal means.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was asked by reporters on Sunday whether he had contacted returning officers about independence advocates running in the election.

Leung said he had not.

He also said that returning officers have been exercising their duties in accordance with the law. “They made the decisions and exercised their duties in an impartial way without political interference,” Leung said.

“This is not a decision made by a person in the government, but made by the returning officers in their own constituencies after candidates submitted their nomination forms,” he said.

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Kris Cheng

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.