At least 12 opposition candidates have been banned by the Hong Kong government in the coming election for the territories legislature this September. More could be added on the list, authorities said on Thursday.
The government pointed out that advocating for self-determination, urging foreign intervention, and “expressing an objection in principle” to the controversial new national security law are reasons for the ban.
Opposition legislators are hoping to obtain a majority in the Legislative Council (LegCo) in September’s poll after Beijing’s imposition of a highly controversial national security law.
Among those barred are high-profile activists Joshua Wong and Lester Shum.
The government said the candidates were not fit to run for office.
Wong, who rose to prominence as a teenage activist during protests in 2014, said the decision showed “a total disregard for the will of Hongkongers” and “tramples upon the city’s last pillar of vanishing autonomy”.
The opposition candidates disqualified on Thursday include four incumbent lawmakers, four district councillors – including Mr. Shum – and activists Ventus Lau Wing-hong, Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam and Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, in addition to Mr Wong.
The Civic Party, one of the city’s pro-democracy parties that had members among those barred, said the disqualifications “exploited the right of Hong Kong people to vote”, Reuters news agency reports.
Its four disqualified members were Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Cheng Tat-hung.
At a news conference in Hong Kong, Mr Kwok, a founding member of the Civic Party, said it was clear Beijing was trying to silence opposition.
“Today we are seeing the results of the relentless oppression that this regime is starting, not only just to take away the basic fundamental rights and freedom that was once enjoyed by all Hong Kong people under the Basic Law… but they are also trying to drive fear and oppression into our hearts and [in]this we must not let them succeed.”
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the decision. “It is clear they [the opposition candidates]have been disqualified because of their political views, undermining the integrity of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Joint Declaration and Hong Kong’s Basic Law,” he said.
The UK’s last colonial governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, said Beijing was carrying out “an outrageous political purge”.
“The National Security law is being used to disenfranchise the majority of Hong Kong’s citizens. It is obviously now illegal to believe in democracy… This is the sort of behaviour that you would expect in a police state,” he said in a statement.
The office of Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong said it firmly supported the disqualifications and that those who were disqualified wanted to paralyse the government and subvert state power, Reuters reported.
Amid speculation the government could postpone the election due to coronavirus, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Wednesday Hong Kong was on the verge of a “large-scale outbreak” that could cause hospitals to “collapse”.
The Legislative Council helps to make and amend Hong Kong’s laws.It is made up of 70 seats – but only 35 are directly voted for by the public.
Another 30 represent “functional constituencies” – these are voted for by smaller groups representing special interests, primarily businesses, banking and trade. Historically these sectors have been largely pro-Beijing.
The last five are made up of district councillors who are elected by the public.
This system, where only a proportion of councillors are chosen by the public, has been called undemocratic by critics, but supporters of the system say it helps avoid populism and protects Hong Kong’s business interests. (Source: BBC)