Election candidates’ disqualifications doesn’t curtail freedom of speech at all: Ho

2021-07-23 04:02     Comment:0

Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng underlined yesterday that residents’ freedom of speech “hasn’t been curtailed at all” after the government-appointed Legislative Assembly Electoral Affairs Commission’s (CAEAL) decision to disqualify 20 direct-election candidates for failing to support the Macau Basic Law or having been disloyal to the Macau Administrative Region (MSAR).

The chief executive also said that disqualifying the candidates aimed to ensure that all members of the local governing bodies, including the Legislative Assembly (AL), will meet the government’s requirement that they must be patriots.

Ho made the remarks while speaking to reporters at the Venetian casino-hotel resort in Cotai after attending yesterday’s opening ceremony of the two-day 12th International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum (IIICF), which ends today.

Reporters pointed out while talking to Ho that he had previously said that all the current lawmakers love the country and Macau, and asked why the Legislative Assembly Electoral Affairs Commission has determined that a number of incumbent lawmakers, who are among the disqualified candidates, have failed to uphold the Macau Basic Law or have been disloyal to the MSAR.

Ho said that the local government needed to respect the decision made by the commission which, he pointed out, set up seven criteria earlier this year to assess whether the candidates nominated by their respective lists for the upcoming direct and indirect legislative elections met all the benchmarks.

Ho noted that the commission set up the seven criteria after considering the central authorities’ amendments to the nation’s Constitution in 2018. Consequently, Ho said, Macau needs to strengthen its work to ensure the full implementation of the “patriots governing Macau” principle and the central government’s overall jurisdiction over the MSAR.

CPC leadership enshrined in Constitution

The first session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) in March 2018 passed a string of amendments to the national Constitution, according to which in Paragraph 2 of Article 1 of the Constitution, after stating that “the socialist system is the basic system of the People’s Republic of China”, a new phrase points out that “the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the Communist Party of China”.

When asked whether the fact that two disqualified candidates are incumbent legislators appeared to contradict the fact that they were qualified to run in the elections four years ago, Ho said that they do not contradict each other, as “different systems can be set up at different stages of time”. Ho noted that people are qualified to run in the legislative elections at a particular time as long as they meet the official candidacy qualification requirement for that time.

Ho underlined that it’s not the case that the commission has amended its candidacy qualification criteria “at will”. Ho said that the Constitution’s amendments in 2018 have formalised the Community Party of China’s (CPC) position as the country’s ruling party, adding that every Chinese person must obey the nation’s Constitution. “If you are not Chinese, you can choose not to obey the Constitution,” he said.

‘Proven facts’

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 run in the direct or indirect legislative elections. According to the same article, residents are also ineligible to stand in the elections if “facts have proved” that they do not uphold the Macau Basic Law or are disloyal to the MSAR. The requirement to uphold the Macau Basic Law and bear allegiance to the MSAR was added to the legislative election law in 2016 when it was amended.

‘Changing landscape’

Reporters pointed out that when the government proposed amendments to the legislative election law in 2016, the then secretary for administration and justice, Sónia Chan Hoi Fan, said that the then proposed requirement to uphold the Macau Basic Law and bear allegiance to the MSAR would not apply to what potential legislative election candidates had previously done, but now, the reporters noted, the Legislative Assembly Electoral Affairs Commission used evidence about what the disqualified candidates had done previously. Ho replied that he needed to respect the commission’s decision. He noted that the legislative election law was amended in 2016, but “the landscape has been constantly changing”.

“It’s not the case that the government has gone back on its word,” Ho said when asked whether the government had failed to adhere to what it had said in 2016.

Ho also noted that the root of the “One Country, Two Systems” comes from the nation’s Constitution.

Ho underlined that the commission’s decision to disqualify the 20 candidates does not curtail residents’ freedom of speech. “There’s no problem for residents to tell the government off, and residents will not be held accountable for saying anything,” Ho said.

Ho insisted that he always sticks to his stance that the government should accept criticism if its performance is not good enough.

Ho underlined that the commission assessed the candidates’ qualifications in line with the seven benchmarks, because of which, he said, it’s not the case that telling off the government would disqualify anyone from running in the legislative elections.

“The executive, legislature and judiciary are governing bodies, and we hope that all members of the governing bodies will meet our requirements,” Ho said.

3 lists appeal

Meanwhile, three so-called “pro-democracy” lists, namely the Democratic Prosperous Macau Association list, the New Macau Progressives list and the New Macau Progressive Association list appealed to the Court of Final Appeal (TU) yesterday against the commission’s decision to disqualify their candidates. Macau’s top court has six days to rule on the appeals.

‘Good news’ for Macau about Hengqin

Meanwhile, Ho also said yesterday that “good news will soon be announced” about the development of the Guangdong-Macau Intensive Cooperation Zone in Hengqin.

Ho declined to reveal what the good news is all about, saying that it must be announced by the central government as “it is about polices formulated by the central government”.

Ho said he hopes that the good news would be announced next month at the latest. “Just like you, I can’t wait for it,” he said.

Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng speaks to reporters at the Venetian in Cotai yesterday. Photo: GCS

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