A newly-appointed member of China’s top legislative body has said that candidates may be barred from running for seats in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council if they call for an end to China’s “one-party dictatorship.” The call is regularly made by many pro-democracy figures at the annual Tiananmen massacre candlelight vigil in Hong Kong.

Earlier this month, the National People’s Congress passed amendments to its constitution – the first since 1982. As part of the changes, a line was added to Article 1 stressing that “the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Tiananmen massacre
The annual Tiananmen massacre candlelight vigil with the slogan “end to dictatorship” on the left. File Photo: Citizen News.

Commenting on the amendment, former DAB lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung said on Monday: “If you want to run for the Legislative Council, in accordance with the Basic Law, you must uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Special Administrative Region. The constitution also states the leadership status of the Chinese Communist Party.”

“When you run, [election officers] have to consider that the so-called ‘end one-party dictatorship’ slogan may not be in line with the constitution.”

Tam was elected to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Sunday, replacing Rita Fan as its sole Hong Kong representative for the next five years.

Tam denied he was passing on a message for central government officials, adding that he was only expressing a personal view.

Tam Yiu-chung
Tam Yiu-chung. File Photo: LegCo.

When asked about the slogan, Cheng Yiu-tong, a Hong Kong delegate to the National People’s Congress, said the results of the Communist Party’s leadership in the past few decades were obvious to all.

“I believe such a slogan is unrealistic,” he said. “As for whether they are eligible to run, it should be decided by the law and the election officers.”

Legal requirements and evidence

Responding to a reporter’s question about Tam’s comments, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said: “On the eligibility to run, we handle it in accordance with the law, and also the evidence.”

“Each incident will be decided by election officers depending on the legal requirements at the time and the evidence during each election.”

carrie lam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam. File Photo: GovHK.

Agnes Chow, whose party supports self-determination for Hong Kong people, was disqualified from running in the recent legislative by-elections. Some Beijing officials have equated self-determination to supporting independence. Chow was not asked any questions by the election officer before she was barred.

Chow’s party colleague Joshua Wong has warned that in the future, those who oppose the legislation of Basic Law Article 23 – the controversial national security law – may be barred from running as well.

‘Political purge’

Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong said Tam’s remarks were dangerous.

She said that, according to Article 1o4 of the Basic Law, lawmakers taking their oaths of office must swear to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, but not to the Chinese constitution.

Helena Wong
Helena Wong. Photo: LegCo.

“Hong Kong implements ‘One Country, Two Systems’,” she said. “There is no law stating that the country’s constitution will be directly applicable to Hong Kong.”

Democratic lawmaker Andrew Wan said there was no sign that Tam’s remarks came from Beijing’s top officials.

“Tam is creating white terror and threatening Hong Kong people,” he said. But he said he was not concerned about his past statements.

“Tam may be admitting that China is running an one-party dictatorship, but the constitution does not state that,” he said. “The Chinese Communist Party stresses its leadership, multi-party cooperation and political consultation.”

“If [Tam] can’t even state the party’s official excuse, he should not come out to embarrass himself.”

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.