A former top adviser to the Hong Kong government has said that the disqualification of pro-independence candidates would not be a decision made by returning officers – it must have consent from Beijing’s central government.

“This is a big political move – in a certain way it is giving clear boundaries for the game rules of Hong Kong politics,” said Lau Siu-kai, now the vice-president of a top Chinese think tank in Hong Kong, at a RTHK programme on Tuesday.

“Hong Kong’s political game rules have been free participation – it’s a personal choice,” he added. “Now there’s a ‘red line’: if you want to join Hong Kong’s political establishment, or even participate in the governance of Hong Kong, you cannot challenge China’s sovereignty.”

Lau Siu-kai. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Five candidates were barred from the upcoming Legislative Council election in September as returning officers deemed them unable to genuinely uphold the Basic Law because they previously supported Hong Kong independence or a return to the UK.

Lau said it is part of the central government’s role to intervene if such election matters were related to threats to sovereignty.

“It was executed by the Hong Kong government, and you cannot say [China] was intervening in Hong Kong’s internal affairs,” he said. “If these internal affairs were not related to national security or territorial integrity, they could be all handled by the Hong Kong government.”

(Left) Mack Horton and (right) Sun Yang were engaged in a row. Photo: YouTube Screenshot.

After the programme, Lau commented on Hongkongers’ disdain towards the results of mainland Chinese athletes at the Rio Olympics.

He said the sentiment may hurt the implementation of One Country, Two Systems, warning that Beijing may scrap the principle.

“Some made fun of Chinese athletes failing to win medals, to vent their depression and discontent. To a certain extent it will affect the relationship between Hong Kong people and mainland people, but generally I don’t think it is necessary to exaggerate the effect, since most Hong Kong people still identify with the national team,” he said.

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.