Several aspiring democratic candidates for the upcoming legislative elections have vowed not to sign a form declaring China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong. Refusal to sign has been reason cited by the authorities when disqualifying candidates in previous elections.

Among those refusing to sign are Joshua Wong and Wu Chi-wai running in the Kowloon East constituency; Sunny Cheung vying for the Kowloon West constituency; Tiffany Yuen and Fergus Leung in the Hong Kong Island constituency and Owen Chow for New Territories East.

count district council election box november 11 (16)
Photo: May James/HKFP.

Signatories of the confirmation form agree to uphold three specific articles of the Basic Law relating to China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong including Article 1 which states that the city “is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China.”

The 2020 version of the confirmation form did not, however, include articles from the newly enacted national security law that criminalises subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers.

The Electoral Affairs Commission [EAC] issued a statement last Thursday to state that completion of the form was voluntary: “[T]he Court stated that the EAC is entitled and empowered to issue the non-mandatory Confirmation Form and it is lawful for the EAC to ask a candidate to submit the Confirmation Form together with the Nomination Form on a voluntary basis,” it read.

Before he submitted his nomination form for the September race on Monday, Wong wrote on Facebook that he would not sign the declaration, adding that he thought the EAC’s statement sent a deterrent signal to candidates. He said the statement “admits that the confirmation form is one of the electoral censorship tools. There has never been an objective criteria and [the form] is detrimental to our solidarity and trust.”

basic law constitution handover
Photo: GovHK.

Yuen wrote that different democratic candidates may have different attitudes towards the form. “To sign or not to sign is just a difference in tactics, but not on principles,” she wrote. “After a year of the resistance movement, Hongkongers have all witnessed one another’s determination. We should not dwell on how each of us handle the form.”

Wu Chi-wai – the Democratic Party chair – wrote on Facebook that he would not give in to oppression, nor would he compromise on Hongkongers’ rights by signing the form. “Refusing to sign the confirmation form is not the only option, but it is to honour Chi-wai’s solemn promise to his voters and is Chi-wai’s only option.”

democratic camp primaries legco 2020
(Top, left to right) Winnie Yu, Tiffany Yuen, Frankie Fung, Kinda Li, Henry Wong, Sam Cheung, Ng Kin-wai, Ventus Lau, Gwyneth Ho, Eddie Chu. (Bottom, left to right) Fergus Leung, Sunny Cheung, Joshua Wong, Lester Shum, Wong Ji-yuet, Owen Chow. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

Meanwhile, Sunny Cheung explained his decision on Facebook by citing the 2016 by-election when ex-localist leader Edward Leung signed the form but was nonetheless barred from running.

Sixteen representatives generated from the pro-democracy camp’s primaries – referring to themselves as the “localist resistance camp” – told the press last Wednesday that they wanted to coordinate with all democrats and come to a consensus over whether to sign the controversial declaration.

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.