Twelve democracy candidates were officially disqualified on Thursday, including a prominent Hong Kong activist and former 2014 umbrella leader Joshua Wong. Other victims include several candidates from more traditional democratic parties, as well as several young activists who gritted their political teeth in last year’s pro-democracy protest movement.
In a statement, the Hong Kong government said it supported the decision by returning officers to “invalidate 12 candidates for this year’s General Election to the Legislative Council.”
It said the candidates were barred on the grounds that they would not abide by the Basic Law, the de facto constitution of Hong Kong, recently expanded by a new security law introduced by Beijing that criminalizes secession, sabotage, terrorism and conspiracy with foreign powers.
“Returning officers are still reviewing the validity of other candidates in accordance with the law,” the government added. “We do not rule out the possibility that more nominations will be declared invalid.”
Elections are in doubt
Several letters published online by returning returnee disqualified officers announcing their decision cited warnings against the security law as the reason for the move.
“The excuse they use is that I describe (the security law) as draconian law, which shows that I do not support this unstable law,” Wong said.
The disqualification comes amid widespread reports that the government is preparing to postpone the September 6 election to next year due to a steady increase in the number of coronaviruses in the city.
It is unclear how the disqualification will affect whether the next round of nominations will take place if the next polls are postponed.
In a statement, the Hong Kong government said it “respects and protects the legal rights of Hong Kong residents, including the right to vote and the right to stand for election.”
Police said three men and one woman, aged 16 to 21, were arrested.
Although police declined to name the group or the detainees, the political group Studentlocalism said on Facebook that its members were among the detainees, naming one as former leader Tony Chung.
Student Localism was one of several political groups in Hong Kong that announced it was shutting down in the city due to a new security law, although it did not remove its social media pages and said activists abroad would continue their work.
At a news conference late Wednesday, police spokesman Li Kwai-wa said the organization had “posted information about the creation of a new party advocating for Hong Kong independence on social media.”
“We have to obey the law, even if the crimes are committed online. Don’t think you can escape responsibility in cyberspace and commit crimes,” Lee added.