Hong Kong Bans Joshua Wong, 11 Other Pro-Democracy Leaders from Elections

HONG KONG, CHINA - JUNE 19: Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong speaks to members of media during a press conference on June 19, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. Wong announced his plans to run in the opposition camp's primaries in the lead-up to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections. (Photo by Anthony …
Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Hong Kong banned a dozen pro-democracy candidates Thursday from running in the 2020 legislative election, currently scheduled for September 9, pending a possible coronavirus safety delay.

One of the banned candidates was Joshua Wong, famed youth activist and a strong performer in July’s nonbinding pro-democracy primaries, who said that he and many of the others were banned for opposing the oppressive national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing.

Wong said the excuse used for banning him from the election was the fact that he denounced the national security law as “draconian,” a term used by most people who are not members in good standing of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) when referring to the law. 

“Clearly, Beijing shows a total disregard for the will of Hong Kongers, tramples upon the city’s last pillar of vanishing autonomy, and attempts to keep Hong Kong’s legislature under its firm grip,” said Wong, noting that everyone from “young progressive groups to traditional moderate parties” appeared to be at risk of getting banned in the crackdown on pro-democracy candidates.

“However, in order to safeguard the city’s future, Hong Kongers will not surrender. Our resistance will continue on and we hope the world can stand with us in the upcoming battle,” he added.

The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) listed the other eleven candidates and quoted government spokespeople saying they were indeed banned for opposing the security law and its prohibitions against alleged subversion, secession, and foreign collusion. Candidate Gwyneth Ho cited a passage in her own disqualification letter that said it was an “obvious sham” for her to claim she would uphold Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the framework for limited autonomy established in 1997, if she opposed the national security law.

In other words, Beijing’s operatives have made the security law — a clear and massive violation of Basic Law principles, imposed without the participation of Hong Kong’s elected legislature — an inseparable component of Basic Law. 

The HKFP noted that election officials sent many pro-democracy candidates a questionnaire about their politics last week that included questions about their stance on the security law and U.S. sanctions slapped against China for imposing it.

One of the returning officers charged that Joshua Wong’s former political party Demosisto was essentially itself a violation of the national security law, even though it did not exist yet when Demosisto was founded and it was dissolved after it passed, and Wong is eternally tainted by Demosisto’s alleged secessionist agenda and collusion with foreign governments.

“Returning Officers are still reviewing the validity of other nominations according to the laws. We do not rule out the possibility that more nominations would be invalidated,” one of the government spokespeople said. “Returning officer” is the name for election officials in the Hong Kong parliamentary system.

The BBC reported that in addition to getting disqualified for criticizing Beijing’s security law, the Hong Kong government banned candidates for allegedly advocating independence, soliciting intervention by foreign powers, or expressing “an intention to exercise the functions of a LegCo [Legislative Council] member by indiscriminately voting down” proposed legislation from the Hong Kong government in a bid to force it to “accede to certain political demands.” 

The latter prohibition was a reference to proposals that pro-democratic legislators could vote to block the city budget from passing, a strategy denounced by the Communist regime in Beijing as a subversion of its authority. 

CNN wryly noted that delaying budgets to secure political demands is basically the job of opposition lawmakers in most countries, so Hong Kong’s LegCo will effectively become a rubber-stamp operation similar to the National People’s Congress in Beijing, serving mostly to apply a thin veneer of democratic respectability to diktats from the central authority.

“The opposition candidates disqualified on Thursday include four incumbent lawmakers, four district councillors — including Mr Shum — and activists Ventus Lau Wing-hong, Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam and Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, in addition to Mr Wong,” the BBC wrote, observing that four of the banned candidates were members of the relatively moderate Civic Party, which denounced the move as a violation of Hong Kong’s voting rights.

“There has been speculation that the government is planning to postpone the Legislative Council election by one year amid a new outbreak of coronavirus. Critics say the government wants to delay the election because the pro-Beijing camp faces a stunning defeat, as they did in last year’s district council elections,” the BBC noted.

The final British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, denounced the disqualifications as an “outrageous political purge.”

“The national security law is being used to disenfranchise the majority of Hong Kong’s citizens. It is obviously now illegal to believe in democracy,” Patten charged.

“This is the sort of behaviour that you would expect in a police state,” he said.

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance On China, an international coalition of lawmakers with members from the U.S. and Europe, said the bans were “unacceptable obstructions of the democratic process in Hong Kong” that will “raise further concerns about the erosions of rights and freedoms.”

The Chinese government’s Hong Kong liaison office, on the other hand, applauded the disqualifications, dismissing the banned candidates as “unscrupulous delinquents” who “crossed the legal bottom line” with their prohibited political stances.

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