Interview: ‘They Gave me no Chance to Explain’

Would-be Hong Kong election candidate Ventus Lau says the city’s electoral officer didn’t believe his recent change of heart regarding his support for independence.

A student activist shows campaign leaflets for Demosisto Party candidate Nathan Law, who won a seat in Hong Kong's Legislative Council election in 2016, but later became one of the first of many to be disqualified, Dec. 8, 2017.

Hong Kong authorities have now barred three would-be candidates for a by-election to the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo) on March 11, saying they don’t qualify to take part because they support the idea of independence for the former British colony, which was handed back to China in 1997. Agnes Chow, a key member of the pro-democracy party Demosisto, which was formed by the leaders of the 2014 Occupy Central movement, district councillor James Chan and “localist” Ventus Lau, who said last month he no longer supports independence, have all had their applications for candidacy rejected by Electoral Affairs Commission officials for allegedly supporting the idea. The move has sparked outrage among the pan-democratic camp and some legal analysts and drawn concern from the European Union and rights groups. Ventus Lau spoke to RFA’s Cantonese Service about the explanation he received:

RFA: What did the Electoral Affairs Commission say in the e-mail informing you that your candidacy was rejected?

Ventus Lau: The first page said that my application for candidacy had been unsuccessful. The following three or pages set out the reasons for this. Then there were 10 or so appendices, mostly stuff downloaded from the internet, for example of some comments I made on Facebook in 2016.

RFA: Was there any mention of comments you made regarding Hong Kong independence in the reasons they gave you?

Ventus Lau: Basically, there were two major reasons. One was some pro-independence comments I made on Facebook, which they had found. [The head of the EAC] had taken into account my change of heart at the end of 2017, when I said I no longer supported independence for Hong Kong, but she said she didn’t believe that I no longer supported it. So that was the first point.
The second point was regarding my statement of candidacy that I made at the start of this year, in which I said that the whole reason for this by-election was the disqualification of Edward Leung and Sixtus Leung, and that the seats should rightfully remain with a localist candidate [supportive of Hong Kong’s local autonomy and unique cultural identity]. She said that these comments clearly demonstrated that I considered myself the successor to Sixtus Leung, who was stripped of his seat for supporting independence and because his oath was judged invalid, and that I would continue in the same vein.

Her opinion that I considered myself the replacement for Edward Leung and Sixtus Leung was the second reason she gave for the rejection of my candidacy, because she concluded that I wasn’t sincere about upholding the Basic Law. In the last section, she went back to my previous comments, saying that my statement that I had renounced my support for Hong Kong independence was clearly insincere, and didn’t represent a genuine change of stance. So that was why my candidacy was rejected.

RFA: Was there any phone contact from the official?

Ventus Lau: I never received a single inquiry from the returning officer from the time I filed my application on Jan. 25 … regarding my political views, neither was I asked for any supplementary material in support of my application, nor given chance to clarify my wording; nothing like that at all … They gave me no chance to explain. They just disqualified me.

RFA: What will you do next?

Ventus Lau: I will be taking legal advice about whether or not to lodge an election petition [appealing the decision].

Reported by Pan Jiaqing for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.