China’s Special Administrative Region (SAR), Hong Kong has a partially autonomous political and legal system, including a limited form of democracy developed since its days under British colonial rule.
These borders and the government’s inability to continue the transition to full democracy have long been criticized by the city’s opposition and have sparked mass protests.
And for sure, there is a lot to question.
Affected include activist Joshua Wong, leader of the Umbrella Movement in 201
While candidates have been banned from standing in the past, and some have even been removed after being selected, the large number of those expelled this week and the broad justifications given for this raise questions about whether it is possible to there is significant opposition in Hong Kong.
The upcoming elections – currently scheduled for September 6th – will be the first since the entry into force of a new national security law criminalizing secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference.
This law already has a great chilling effect and may have stopped the city’s protest movement on its tracks. The government seems to be coming after its critics in the legislature.
While decisions to dismiss 12 lawmakers were made by returning officials in their various constituencies – low-level bureaucrats – both the Hong Kong and Chinese governments quickly issued statements in support of the move.
Under Hong Kong’s basic law, the city’s de facto constitution, future lawmakers must swear to “uphold” the constitution, a declaration that was largely procedural.
But citing a 2016 lawsuit detaining an independence candidate, the government said in a statement that the promise to “uphold the Basic Law” means not only compliance with it, but also the intention to support, encourage and accept it.
The government also provided examples of conduct that would lead to disqualification, including advocating for Hong Kong independence or self-determination or “attracting interference from foreign governments or political authorities.”
While such behavior is tolerated in many democracies, both the British and Canadian parliaments openly include secessionist parties, for example, all of which are new to Hong Kong under security law.
Other examples, however, are much more in line with what it means be opposition politician, including “expressing intent” “indiscriminately (vote) on all legislative proposals, appointments, funding applications and budgets introduced by (the government) so as to force the government to join certain political demands”.
This seems to be in response to a plan by some in the Democratic camp, if they win a majority in the legislature, to vote for leader Carrie Lam’s budget, prompting a constitutional crisis and potentially her resignation.
Applicants should also be banned if they object in principle to the entry into force of the security law. And while the government has promised that the law will not have retroactive effect, several returning officials have cited candidates’ opposition to the law before it went into effect as a reason for banning it, which could lead to many more disqualifications, given that virtually the entire democracy movement was united in opposing the law.
Free and fair?
In a statement in support of the candidates’ rejection this week and alluding to more to come, the government said “there is no question of any political censorship, restriction of freedom of speech or deprivation of the right to stand for election, as some have argued. community members. ”
“The Government of (Hong Kong) respects and protects the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong, including the right to vote and the right to stand for election. In addition, it has an obligation to implement and maintain the Basic Law and to ensure that all elections compliance with the basic law and the relevant election laws, “he added.
However, the allegation was immediately called into question by many, both inside and outside the city, including British Foreign Secretary Dominique Raab, who said in a statement that it was clear that the candidates were “disqualified for their political views”.
“This move undermines the integrity of ‘one state, two systems’ and the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Hong Kong,” Raab added, referring to the system that guarantees the city’s autonomy under international law until 2047. г.
Human rights groups, current lawmakers, political parties and other foreign governments have also criticized the move, with Amnesty International saying it has shown “intent to punish peaceful criticism and advocacy for opposing views”.
Although the election itself is currently in doubt due to the coronavirus – there is speculation that it may be postponed to next year – if it continues, it seems likely it will not include many of the city’s most popular or prominent pro-democracy figures and perhaps a little serious. opposition candidates.
This 2014 proposal from Beijing has an echo of how Hong Kong can choose its leader. Unlike the current system, where a small commission elects a chief executive, the Chinese government says all Hong Kongers will get a vote – but Beijing will control who stands.