Well-intentioned criticism & discrediting govt are different things: Cheong

2021-07-16 03:47     Comment:3

Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong Weng Chon underlined yesterday that the Legislative Assembly Electoral Affairs Commission’s (CAEAL) decision of disqualifying 20 direct-election candidates for failing to support the Macau Basic Law or having been disloyal to the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR), does not affect residents’ freedom of speech, their right to vote and to be elected.

The policy secretary also said that “well-intentioned” criticism of the local government’s work is different from discrediting the government, adding that there is a clear dividing line between the two.

Cheong made the remarks while speaking to reporters after attending a plenary session in the legislature’s hemicycle.

Cheong underlined that the Legislative Assembly Electoral Affairs Commission has assessed the candidates’ qualifications in line with the law, which he said is the commission’s power and duty granted by the Legislative Assembly Election Law. Cheong said that the MSAR government resolutely supports the commission in carrying out its duties in line with the law and its decision to disqualify the 20 direct-election candidates.

Cheong noted that the affected candidates can choose to lodge their objection to the commission’s decision by the official deadline. If the commission rejects their objections, they can still appeal to the Court of Final Appeal (TUI), Cheong noted.

According to Article 6 of the Legislative Assembly Election Law, those who refuse to declare that they uphold the Macau Basic Law and bear allegiance to the MSAR are ineligible to be a candidate for the direct or indirect legislative elections. According to the same article, residents are also ineligible to run in the elections if “facts have proved” that they do not uphold the Macau Basic Law or are disloyal to the MSAR.

When asked by reporters why the commission has set up the seven criteria – announced on Monday – to assess the candidates’ qualifications that appear to go beyond existing laws and official regulations, Cheong said that he disagreed with this view. Cheong noted that more concrete rules are needed for the commission to implement the legislative election law’s requirement for candidates to uphold the Macau Basic Law and bear allegiance to the MSAR, as it is impossible for laws to stipulate all the specifics involved Consequently, Cheong said, the commission has formulated feasible standards used for its candidacy qualification review process in line with the principles established by the legislative election law and other relevant laws.

When asked why the commission had not announced its seven criteria before the lists submitted their lists of candidates, Cheong said he believed that the commission chose the right time to announce the seven assessment standards after carefully evaluating the situation.

Cheong underlined that the seven criteria set up by the commission do not violate the legislative election law and the Macau Basic Law, nor do they deprive residents of their right to vote and to be elected.

‘Higher standards for politicians’

Cheong said that political figures or those engaged in politics should be subject to higher requirements and standards compared to residents in general. “They should have behaviours and virtues that are higher than others,” Cheong said.

Cheong noted that the positions and behaviours of those involved in politics have a more significant influence on civil society, adding that higher requirements and standards for them are common practice across the world, so that it’s not a unique practice in Macau.

Consequently, Cheong said, disqualifying the candidates does not affect residents’ right to criticise and monitor the local government’s administration and their freedom of speech.

“If residents think that the government has done something wrong, just tell it off,” Cheong said.

“I also have often been criticised [by residents for various matters], for example about the Municipal Affairs Bureau’s poor performance in maintaining the city’s sewerage and handling stray dogs, that’s no problem,” Cheong said.

Cheong said that local political figures should not attack and discredit the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), adding that instead those in engaged in politics should support the CPC leadership.

“Criticism has two types, one is well-intentioned, while the other type aims to incite something and discredit [the government], with the hope of overthrowing the fundamental system. The two types are different, and I believe that ordinary residents are able to understand the difference between the two,” Cheong said.

Police gather candidates’ publicly available information: Wong

Meanwhile, Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak told reporters on the sidelines of yesterday’s plenary session of the legislature that the police had gathered information about the direct-election candidates in line with the Legislative Assembly Electoral Affairs Commission’s requirements, including its seven criteria to assess the candidates’ qualifications.

Wong underlined that the police had gathered information that was publicly available.

Reporters wanted to know why the police were able to gather loads of information about the candidates in a short period of time after receiving the commission’s request, asking Wong whether the police had been gathering their information for a long time. Wong said that the police never disclose details about their policing and law enforcement work.

Wong said that despite the police having come up with their conclusions about whether the legislative election candidates had failed to support the Macau Basic Law or had been disloyal to the MSAR, it was the Legislative Assembly Electoral Affairs Commission that had the final say on the matter.

“The police not only gather information but also need to make a basic judgement,” Wong said.

Some of the disqualified candidates have publicly complained about the information collected by the police about them.

Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong Weng Chon speaks to reporters at the Legislative Assembly (AL) yesterday. Photo: Tony Wong

Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak talks to reporters after attending yesterday’s plenary session of the legislature’s hemicycle. Photo: MPDG

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  • visitors2021071606:402021-07-16 06:40

    Incumbent Lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong, one of the 20 disqualified candidates, revealed earlier this week on his Facebook account that one of the photos on the commission’s document about its decision of disqualifying him as a legislative election candidate shows him posing with the then chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, Wu Chi-wai, in August 2019 at an unidentified location. According to Ng’s Facebook post, the caption of the photo provided by the Judiciary Police (PJ) to the commission reads “Ng Kuok Cheong meets Wu Chi-wai, a key member of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, which advocates Hong Kong independence, on August 3, 2019”. Soon after Ng put the post on his Facebook account, Hong Kong’s Democratic Party dismissed in a statement the Macau police’s allegation about its advocate for HK independence.

  • visitors2021071606:402021-07-16 06:40

    Reporters asked Wong yesterday about Ng’s Facebook post, asking him why the police had appeared to come up with a subjective stance about particular candidates when gathering their information. Wong underlined that making conclusions about particular cases is also the police’s responsibility and obligation, like during their investigations into criminal cases when the police always make a judgement before transferring the cases to the Public Prosecution Office (MP).