Chief Exec. Carrie Lam has said that a coordinated effort by democrats to win a majority in the legislature in order to oppose government policy may be illegal under the national security law.

Lam was asked on Monday for her reaction to the pro-democracy camp’s primary election over the weekend, which saw a high turnout of over 600,000 citizens.

Tai Po. Photo: Apple Daily.

At a press conference, she warned that people must not “interfere, disrupt [or] cause confusion” in the run-up to the legislative election in November.

“If this so-called primary election’s purpose is to achieve the ultimately goal of… rejecting to, resisting every policy initiative of the Hong Kong SAR government, then it may fall into the category of subverting the state power,” she said, “which is now one of the four types offences under the new national security law.”

Lam added she was only issuing a warning, but there may be a case to answer.

She said the government had received complaints that the exercise over the weekend had caused confusion, broken Covid-19 gathering rules and was a breach of privacy.

Photo: Inmediahk.net via CC 2.0.

Throughout the weekend, citizens queued at over 200 polling stations in the heat, despite news of a fresh Covid-19 outbreak hitting the headlines.

The primary results – expected to be released on Tuesday – will be used as a reference to select candidates to represent the democratic camp in five geographical constituencies. The constituencies include Kowloon East, Kowloon West, Hong Kong Island, New Territories East, New Territories as well as two functional constituencies – “super” district councillors and health services sector in September’s Legislative Council election.

However, Lam said on Monday that there was “no such thing as a primary,” saying it was not part of Hong Kong’s electoral system.

Last week, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang has claimed that participation in the primaries could violate the law due to organisers’ calls for democrats to veto the annual government budget if they win a majority in the legislature.

Following Lam’s Monday press conference, his department said that the government was investigating complaints about the weekend’s primaries “and will seek legal advice if necessary.”

“The ordinance of election in Hong Kong will not recognise nor approve the format, procedure and results of the so-called “primaries” held by the pro-democratic camp,” a spokesperson said.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.