Twelve democracy candidates were formally disqualified on Thursday, including prominent Hong Kong activist and former Time Movement 2014 leader Joshua Wong. Others affected include a number of candidates from more traditional pro-democracy parties, as well as several young activists who are cutting their political teeth in last year’s pro-democracy protest movement.
In a statement, the Hong Kong government said it supported the decisions by “returning staff for”
It says the candidates were banned on the grounds that they would not uphold the basic law, the de facto constitution of Hong Kong, recently expanded with a new security law imposed on the city by Beijing, which criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism and clashes with foreign forces.
“Returning employees are still reviewing the validity of other nominations under the law,” the government added. “We do not rule out the possibility of more nominations being invalidated.”
Elections in doubt
Several letters posted online by disqualified candidates from returning staff informing them of their decision cited previous opposition to the security law as the reason for the move.
“The excuse they use is that I describe (the security law) as a draconian law, which shows that I do not support this sweeping law,” Wong said.
The disqualifications come amid widespread reports that the government is preparing to postpone next September’s elections to next year due to the continuing increase in coronavirus cases in the city.
It is unclear how the disqualifications will affect this or whether there will be a new round of nominations next year if the polls are postponed.
In a statement, the Hong Kong government said it “respects and protects the legal rights of Hong Kong people, including the right to vote and the right to stand for election.”
Police said the detainees were three men and a woman, aged between 16 and 21.
Although police declined to name the group or those arrested, the political group Studentlocalism said on Facebook that its members were among those arrested, naming one of them as former leader Tony Chung.
Studentlocalism was one of several political groups in Hong Kong that announced it was shutting down in the city due to the new security law, although it did not delete its social media pages and said activists abroad would continue their work.
At a news conference Wednesday, police spokesman Li Kwai-wa said the organization had “published about the creation of a new party advocating for Hong Kong’s independence on social media.”
“We need to enforce the law, even if the crimes were committed online. Don’t think you can escape responsibility in cyberspace and commit crimes,” Lee added.