Hours after being told he was disqualified from a village election, pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu has called the decision “ridiculous” and said he will consider taking legal action.

Chu said he received an email from Returning Officer Enoch Yuen – the government official overseeing the election – at around 6 pm on Sunday telling him that his nomination was invalid.

Chu was hoping to enter the race to represent Yuen Kong San Tsuen, a village of 100 constituents in Pat Heung, Yuen Long. Last month, he received two sets of questions about his political beliefs, including questions over whether he supported Hong Kong independence.

Eddie Chu disqualification
Lawmaker Eddie Chu responds to his disqualification from a village election. Photo: inmediahk.net.

“The political logic behind the letters comes from the Cultural Revolution, where everyone had to be thought police,” Chu said, arguing that the government was forcing him to oppose others’ advocacy of Hong Kong independence.

Chu said he had never supported independence, but believed that the Basic Law protects independence-related speech so long as it is peaceful.

‘Moved the goalposts’

In an email on Sunday, Yuen said that Chu’s answers “can be understood as implicitly confirming that [Chu] supports that independence could be an option for Hong Kong people.”

Yuen’s ruling cited news articles and social media posts mentioning Chu, as well as Chu’s own social media posts and public statements advocating “democratic self-determination.”

Chu criticised Yuen for coming to a conclusion based on an “implicit” reading of his words.

He added that he was successfully sworn in as a Legislative Council lawmaker in 2016 – which came with legal requirements similar to village elections – and the government did not seek to challenge his eligibility.

“I was not the one who moved the goalposts. I was not the one who changed,” Chu said. “I think they need to explain to the Hong Kong public, why they can change the threshold of political screening without public consultation and legislative procedures.”

Asked about his prospects in the 2020 Legislative Council election, Chu said he would need to wait until after the 2019 District Council election to say for sure.

In the meantime, Chu said he would consult his team over whether to take the matter to court. However, Chu said an election petition would need to wait until the Yuen Long election concludes on January 9 next year.

eddie chu village
Eddie Chu. File Photo: inmediahk.net.

He added that electoral politics was not the only path for the pro-democracy movement, and for now he will continue to work in his capacity as lawmaker.

‘No question’ of censorship

On Sunday, a government spokesperson said that there was “no question of any political censorship, restriction of the freedom of speech” in Chu’s case, and that the move to disqualify him was made by the returning officer.

Chu said that it was expected that the government would distance itself: “[Chief Executive] Carrie Lam and the top officials, the most irresponsible thing is they will push a [District Officer] to take the blame… while they hide and say there was no political consideration,” he said.

“When the whole world knows they are lying, I hope they have some guts to take responsibility,” he added.

Chu joins the ranks of nine others who have been barred from elections. Nathan Law of political group Demosisto and Lau Siu-lai of Democracy Groundwork have been disqualified as lawmakers. Lau and Demosisto’s Agnes Chow were banned from running in by-elections.

Lau Siu-lai DQ rip
Lau Siu-lai rips up the letter invalidating her candidacy. File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

However, Chu was the first to be disqualified from a village representative election over his political views.

Chu had previously argued that village representatives were in a different class from “high office holders” like lawmakers, therefore they should not be subject to screening based on political values.

Yuen’s email on Sunday did not respond to this point, Chu said.

Chu said his disqualification would spark a local and international backlash, and said he disagreed that Hongkongers had become “apathetic.”

“When they make these ridiculous political decisions, there will be consequences… One day there will be resistance,” he said.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.