The Hong Kong government has sent a list of four queries to pro-democracy by-election candidate Edward Yiu regarding his allegiance to the Basic Law, claiming that his answers will be a factor in whether he will be allowed to run.

Fellow pro-democracy candidate Agnes Chow was disqualified on Saturday from running, as the government claimed that her Demosisto party’s advocacy of self-determination was inconsistent with the city’s mini-constitution.

Edward Yiu at a press conference on Saturday. File photo: In-Media.

Yiu successfully became the architectural constituency lawmaker in September 2016, but after Beijing’s November interpretation of the Basic Law, a court ousted him. His oath was deemed to be improper as he had added references to democracy and “sustainable development.” For the upcoming March by-elections, he has applied to run in the Kowloon West constituency, but pro-Beijing newspapers have claimed in recent days that he will be disqualified.

Criticising Beijing’s ruling

The former surveying professor said on Facebook that Kowloon West electoral officer Franco Kwok sent him the list of questions on Friday.

Firstly, Kwok asked him whether he sincerely upheld the Basic Law, given that he inserted additional phrases into his oath in 2016.

“I sincerely upheld the Basic Law when I took my oath,” said Yiu in a written response on Saturday.

Secondly, Yiu was asked whether he accepted Beijing’s interpretation of the provision on oath-taking, which led to his ousting last July. “After the proceedings [to disqualify Yiu] ended, you criticised the National People’s Congress’s interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law on various occasions,” said Kwok.

Edward Yiu taking his oath in 2016. File photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Yiu said he accepted that Beijing’s interpretation was binding and accepted the court’s verdict, given that he decided not to appeal.

“I do not understand what relevance this question has to do with your decision on whether my candidacy is valid,” added Yiu. “On the basis of which relevant electoral laws are you making these queries?”

Trip to Taiwan

Thirdly, Kwok cited a Hong Kong Economic Journal article on December’s pro-democracy camp primary election debate. He asked Yiu to clarify what he meant when he said in the debate that he advocated “arrangements that would give more autonomy for Hongkongers to decide their own fate.”

Photo: Edward Yiu, via Facebook.

Yiu said that the article did not put his words into context. He said he was giving an example about how Hong Kong – as a city with a high degree of autonomy as stipulated in the Basic Law – could join international organisations to deal with issues such as global warming.

Finally, Kwok said that Yiu went to Taiwan to participate in a conference held by the independence-leaning New Power Party last January, and asked whether Yiu agreed with their views.

“The theme of the conference was exchange between the two legislatures,” said Yiu in reply. “I was and am not familiar with – nor have I conducted research on – the New Power Party’s policies.”

Photo: New Power Party, via Facebook.

“I have my own political ideas, and I do not consider or judge the platforms of other individual organisations when I am attending a conference.”

“I do not understand why you have taken one line from the New Power Party,” he added. “I repeat that I do not agree with Hong Kong independence, and staunchly uphold the civic rights stipulated and protected by every Hongkonger under the Basic Law.”

Yiu added that he has attended forums held by Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the World Trade Organisation as a legislator. He said that this did not mean he agreed with their views either.

Legal expert Eric Cheung said that the government’s actions in banning candidates had far-reaching consequences: “Whether you uphold the Basic Law and pledge loyalty to the Hong Kong government — these are very broad and general terms and there could be different interpretations,” he told HKFP. “If [the understanding] is different to the government and, after reviewing my past speech, they say that I do not uphold the Basic Law and do not allow me to run — that is very ridiculous.”

Two weeks ago, Yiu won the pro-democracy camp’s primary for the Kowloon West seat. The primaries sought to elect a single candidate to fill the seat vacated by fellow ousted legislator Yau Wai-ching, so as to maximise the camp’s chances of winning.

Runner-up Frederick Fung has said he will not step in as a replacement in the event that Yiu is disqualified. Third-placed Ramon Yuen from the Democratic Party says he will submit an application if Yiu’s candidacy is not confirmed by Monday.

The pro-democracy camp is organising a rally outside government headquarters at 5pm on Sunday to protest the government’s election disqualifications.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.