Sha Tin district councillor James Chan has been barred from running in the March legislative by-election. He is the third election hopeful to be banned from the race over his political views.

Chan, a district councillor elected in 2015, submitted nominations to run in the New Territories East constituency, despite being banned from running in the 2016 legislative election because of his pro-independence stance at the time. An election officer asked Chan to explain his definition of Hong Kong independence – an idea he has denied supporting since November last year.

But the election officer said “the past conduct of Mr Chan over a sustained period of time… casts a serious doubt upon his more recent professed intention.”

James Chan. Photo: In-Media.

Earlier this month, Chan claimed that – although he supported localist groups – he was never an independence advocate but an advocate of “Communism out of Hong Kong.” He said the concept aligned with the One Country, Two Systems principle enshrined in the Basic Law.

In his response to election officer Amy Chan, James Chan said he did not belong to any party or political camp, and his definition of independence was “independence from Communist rule.”

But the officer said James Chan had supported Hong Kong independence and attended a pro-independence rally after his 2016 disqualification.

“The above explanation put forward by Mr Chan as to what he meant by ‘the independence of Hong Kong’ cannot, by any logical and reasonable reading of it, be considered a sensible account of his stance,” the election officer wrote.

“In view of the above, the past conduct of Mr Chan over a sustained period of time (from August 2016 until at least November 2017) casts a serious doubt upon his more recent professed intention,” she added.

“Viewed objectively, Mr Chan, by that time, would likely have known that if he decided to run for the by-election, he was expected to, at least, state that he would uphold the Basic Law and disavow his previous stance of advocating the independence of Hong Kong if he wished to obtain a favourable ruling from the Returning Officer.”

James Chan. Photo: In-Media.

He was thus disqualified from running as the election officer did not believe he genuinely and truly intends to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR.

Hong Kong Island candidate Agnes Chow was disqualified last Saturday over her party’s advocacy of self-determination, which Beijing equates to independence. On Wednesday, Localist Ventus Lau was barred from running as an election officer claimed Lau expressed “an apparent reluctance to denounce his hitherto manifested and sustained stance of independence of Hong Kong.”

‘Waste of time’

James Chan said it was “a waste of time” for him to answer the election officer.

“Her last sentence said… no matter how I explained, whatever I did was for convincing the returning officer!” he said. “If you already have a DQ [disqualification] list, why waste the time to play a question-and-answer game? I will file an election petition!”

His disqualification came just four hours before the official briefing for candidates by the Electoral Affairs Commission on Thursday night.

The enquiries made to James Chan came after an election officer asked Kowloon West candidate Edward Yiu about his political views. His candidacy was approved at around 4pm on Monday.

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.