A dozen Hong Kong democracy candidates have been disqualified on Thursday from standing in the city’s legislative elections in September.
The government confirmed 12 nominees, including high-profile activist Joshua Wong, had been barred in a statement.
The authorities claimed the rejected candidates had failed to uphold the city’s mini-constitution and pledge allegiance to Hong Kong and Beijing.
A dozen Hong Kong democracy activists were disqualified on Thursday from standing in September’s legislative elections, a move decried by candidates as the most pressing assault yet on Beijing’s critics in the city. The picture taken on July 15 shows the activist Joshua Wong (left), along with 15 other winners of the democratic primaries, speaks to reporters
Many of those disqualified took to social media to post the letters confirming they had been barred – including Joshua Wong, one of the city’s best known activists. Pictured, Mr Wong with the nomination papers on Monday as he files his candidacy for the official body on July 20
Many of those disqualified criticised the move as the most pressing assault yet on Beijing’s critics in the city.
‘Beijing shows a total disregard for the will of the Hongkongers, tramples upon the city’s… autonomy and attempts to keep HK’s legislature under its firm grip,’ Joshua Wong wrote in a tweet.
He described the move as ‘the biggest-ever crackdown’ on the city’s pro-democracy movement, saying authorities had disqualified ‘nearly all pro-democracy runners, from young progressive groups to traditional moderate parties’.
Human rights campaigners called the government’s decision to disqualify democracy candidates ‘reeking of political repression’.
Lam Cho Ming, Amnesty International Hong Kong’s Programme Manager, said: ‘For all the Hong Kong government’s insistence that these decisions do not restrict ‘freedom of speech’, its actions reek of political repression.
‘This move is likely to intensify the climate of fear and tension in Hong Kong, where opposition figures, their supporters, activists on the streets and even ordinary people have been forced to self-censor their political discourse to avoid being targeted under the city’s new National Security Law.’
The Civic Party, one of the city’s most prominent pro-democracy parties, said four of its members had been disqualified. Pro-democracy Civic Party members attend a news conference after disqualifying for a September legislative election
The leading pro-democracy activist is pictured on Monday posing with the nomination papers as he files for his candidacy in the Legislative Council elections in September in Hong Kong
Other prominent young activists who are staunchly critical of Beijing like Wong and were also disqualified included Gwyneth Ho, Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen and Fergus Leung.
The Civic Party, one of the city’s most prominent pro-democracy parties, said four of its members had been disqualified: Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Cheng Tat-hung.
Hong Kong is run by pro-Beijing appointees, but the city is due to hold elections in early September for the Legislative Council.
The 70-seat law-making body is deliberately weighted to return a pro-Beijing majority, with only half the seats elected by popular vote.
The rest are chosen by industry bodies and special interest groups who reliably vote for pro-Beijing figures.
But pro-democracy parties had been hoping to capitalise on seething resentment towards Beijing’s rule after huge pro-democracy protests last year.
If they take all 35 electable seats they could hold a majority for the first time and block legislation.
Hong Kong is run by pro-Beijing appointees, but the city is due to hold elections in early September for the Legislative Council. The file picture taken on July 11 shows Joshua Wong posing with other candidates while campaigning during an unofficial primary election
Banners of a pro-democracy candidate Joshua Wong, wearing glasses, are displayed outside a subway station in Hong Kong on July 11
During local council elections last year – the city’s only full elections – pro-democracy figures won 17 out of 18 districts.
However election officials have been scrutinising the political views of candidates to decide whether they can run for the legislature.
Hong Kong says only those who promise to uphold the city’s mini-constitution and pledge allegiance to both the local government and China can run.
In its statement Hong Kong’s government gave a list of political views and actions it said breached those commitments.
They included promoting independence, soliciting intervention by foreign governments and ‘expressing an objection in principle’ to the new national security law Beijing imposed on the city last month.
It also said campaigning to block legislation by winning a majority in the legislature would be grounds for disqualification as well as refusing to recognise China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong.
The government said it would not rule out further disqualifications down the line.
‘There is no question of any political censorship, restriction of the freedom of speech or deprivation of the right to stand for elections as alleged by some members of the community,’ the statement added.