The Registration and Electoral Office has dismissed claims that chief executive contender Carrie Lam’s candidacy should be invalidated as she can obtain residence rights in the European Union through her husband’s British nationality.

Previously, Lam said in an interview that she gave up her British nationality in 2007 when she was appointed Secretary for Development, but her husband and two sons kept their nationalities, obtained through the British Nationality Selection Scheme before the handover.

She said her husband will not give up his nationality even if she wins.

Carrie Lam husband
Carrie Lam and her husband. Photo: Facebook.

According to Article 44 of the Basic Law, the chief executive shall be a Chinese citizen with no right of abode in any foreign country. Section 13 of the Chief Executive Election Ordinance also states that a chief executive candidate cannot have right of abode in any foreign country.

The office’s decision was questioned by political commentator Martin Oei.

Currently, Lam’s husband is automatically a citizen of the European Union. Oei said that according to the EU’s Directive 2004/38/EC, Lam will have the right to reside in the EU for three months as a family member. She can also work during that time.

Family members of EU citizens can also stay longer than three months if they can prove that they have sufficient resources or income along with comprehensive health insurance coverage in the host country.

Oei accused Lam of making a false statement by saying that she has no foreign right of abode when submitting her nominations.

However, the provisions only apply to a non-EU citizen accompanying or joining a EU citizen already inside the EU.

Electoral Affairs Commission chief executive election
A briefing session for chief executive candidates by the Electoral Affairs Commission. Photo: GovHK.

Apple Daily reported the story last week and asked the Registration and Electoral Office about the issue. The office issued a statement on Tuesday.

The office said the election’s Returning Officer – Madam Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling – sought legal advice from the Department of Justice.

Claims that Lam has the right of abode in a foreign country, that she made a false statement saying she has no foreign right of abode, and that she should be stripped of her candidacy were all unable to be established, the office quoted Chu as saying.

It added that the effective nominations of the three current candidates have not changed.

John Tsang and Woo Kwok-hing are the other two candidates.

Kris Cheng

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.