Jorge Neto Valente, the president of the Macau Lawyers Association has expressed shock at the disqualification of 23 candidates from the September legislative elections.
“I’m shocked because I know some of the candidates. I have accompanied what they say, some are or were deputies and they have been serving Macao for decades,” said Valente to TDM.
The high-profile lawyer also said he is “very worried when it is said that they [the excluded candidates] are not loyal to Macao and that they do not love Macao”.
“The fact that they have different ideas from authorities does not mean they do not have the right to have them. When the Basic Law says that freedom of expression is guaranteed, many restrictions can be conjured up, but one thing is certain – freedom of expression means the right to think differently,” he said.
Valente said that “often I do not agree with what some of these people say, or do, or propose to do, or their ideas, but they have the right to express their ideas. Because if this is not allowed, then there is no freedom of expression.”
Jorge Neto Valente also told TDM that the decision by Macao Electoral Affairs Committee (CAEL), before the election even takes place “is a way of defeating candidates who want to submit to popular suffrage. It’s defeating them in the office, and that’s not freedom.”
“The Basic Law is clear, as is the Constitution of China when they say that, in Macao, there is freedom of expression,” he concluded.
CAEL announced on Friday that it has decided to disqualify 23 candidates from six candidacy lists for failing to support the Macao Basic Law and having been disloyal to the SAR. According to the Macao Legislative Assembly Election Law they have the right to appeal or to replace the candidates concerned on Monday at the latest.
The non-establishment candidates – including incumbent lawmakers Ng Kuok Cheong and Sulu Sou Ka Hou, former lawmaker Paul Chan Wai Chi and high-profile activist Scott Chiang Meng Him – gave a joint press conference yesterday about how they would respond to their disqualification by appealing to the Court of Final Appeal.