Twelve pro-democracy candidates were formally disqualified on Thursday, including a prominent activist in Hong Kong and former Umbrella Movement leader 2014 Joshua Wong. Others affected include a number of candidates from more traditional pro-democracy parties, as well as several young activists who cut 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 officials to “invalidate 12 people nominated for this year’s Legislative Council (LegCo) General Election.”
He said the candidates were prescribed on the basis of not respecting the Basic Law, the de facto constitution of Hong Kong, recently extended by a new security law imposed on the city by Beijing, which criminalizes s secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
“Returning officials are still reviewing the validity of other nominations under the laws,” the government added. “We do not rule out the possibility of further nominations being invalidated.”
Election in doubt
Several letters sent online by disqualified candidates by returning officials informing them of their decision cited a previous opposition to security law as a reason for the move.
“The excuse they use is that I describe (the security law) as a dragon law, which shows that I don’t support this sweeping law,” Wong said.
The disqualifications come amid widespread reports that the government is preparing to postpone the elections, to be held on September 6, for next year, due to a continuous increase in coronavirus cases in the city.
It is unclear how disqualifications will affect, or whether there will be another round of nominations next year if elections are postponed.
In the statement, the Hong Kong government said it “respects and safeguards the legal rights of Hong Kong people, including the right to vote and the right to stand for election.”
Police said those arrested were three men and one woman, aged between 16 and 21.
Although police refused to mention the group or those arrested, the political group Studentlocalism said on Facebook that its members were among those arrested, naming one as former leader Tony Chung.
Studentlocalism was one of several political groups in Hong Kong that announced it was ending operations in the city because of the new security law, although it did not delete its social media pages and said foreign activists they will continue their work.
At a press conference late Wednesday, police spokesman Lee Kwai-wah said the organization was “stationed on setting up a new party supporting Hong Kong’s independence on social media.”
“We want to enforce the laws even if the crimes are committed online. I don’t think you can escape responsibility in cyberspace and commit crimes,” Lee added.