The 70-year-old retired judge running for the next year’s chief executive election said on Monday that Hongkongers are free to talk about the issue of independence. But he reminded Hongkongers not to go beyond that as that would go against the Basic Law.
Woo Kwok-hing became the first person to enter the chief executive race last week. In an exclusive interview with SCMP on Monday, he also talked about other controversial topics like Occupy Central.
Woo, the former vice-president of the Court of Appeal, said talking about Hong Kong’s independence was a matter of free speech.
“We have freedom of expression, which should be maintained in Hong Kong. If you go beyond that, you say let’s organise and do something harmful to the government and the People Liberation Army, it’s a risk that you have to take,” said Woo.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has said that promoting the city’s separation from mainland China was “absolutely not a matter of free speech”.
But Woo made clear he was against independence. Independence was “not allowable”, and broke the constitution, he said.
Of the Occupy protests in 2014, Woo said if he were the chief executive he would not have ordered police to fire tear gas at protesters. And he wouldn’t have asked candidates running for the legislature to sign anything that states Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China.
Woo also said it was important to restart the political reform process. He also said the Election Committee of 1,200 members that nominates the chief executive should be broader.
“There is a lot of room for manoeuvre within that provision” to make the committee “broadly representative”, Woo said.
The retired judge’s surprise announcement triggered a reaction among other potential contenders – Leung, executive and legislative councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah – who exchanged heated words but had not yet confirmed their candidacy.
Woo has yet to announce any policies. He said he would by December. But he has recruited 10 people for his campaign team. “I have ideas in my pocket,” he said.
The chief executive election will be held on March 16 next year. The 1,200-members of the Election Committee will elect the city’s next leader.