Democracy activist Joshua Wong barred from running in HK district council election

30-Oct-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung has been banned from running in November’s district council elections because he had not changed his stance on independence, the Hong Kong government decided on Tuesday, a move the former student leader denounced as a directive from Beijing.

Wong was the only candidate disqualified from the polls, to be held on November 24, on the basis of his political stance.

The government said in a press release on Tuesday morning that decisions on the nominations of all candidates had been made.

Without naming Wong, it said: “The candidate cannot possibly comply with the requirements of the relevant electoral laws, since advocating or promoting ‘self-determination’ is contrary to the content of the declaration that the law requires a candidate to make to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the HKSAR.”



Wong said the returning officer was carrying out political vetting.

“The ban is clearly political driven,” he said. “The so-called reason is judging subjectively on my intention to uphold the Basic Law. But everyone knows the true reason is my identity Joshua Wong is a crime in their mind.

“I have never actively advocated independence as an option, but she twisted and wrongly interrupted my remark,” he said, adding that Beijing had clearly exerted great pressure on Hong Kong officials, demonstrated by the original returning officer taking sick leave and its mouthpiece People’s Daily calling him an “independence leader”.

Wong believed his advocacy of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in the United States was probably the core reason of the ban in Beijing’s mind.

“But they have to pay the price in the international community… my disqualification will only trigger more people to take to the streets and vote in the coming elections,” he said.

Wong also said he would consider challenging the decision after November’s district council elections.

“Under the Basic Law, the allegiance requirement does not mention district council in the legislation,” Wong said. “So how much power or legal basis does a returning officer of the district council which is a consultative body have to carry out political vetting? This is critical.”

In response to the officer’s ruling, Wong reiterated he only supported a non-binding referendum, saying: “Unless we are saying academic institutes are also unconstitutional in carrying out polls asking about independence?”

Wong’s rival, Judy Chan Ka-pui of the New People’s Party said returning officers had a legal right to disqualify candidates and had already given Wong three chances to respond.

But Chan said she still faced a tough fight due to the overall political climate.

“Some are saying ‘not even one vote’ to the pro-establishment camp,” Chan said. “This is irrelevant to whether there’s a disqualification.”

Two companies of riot police each consisting of about 180 officers were deployed to deal with any protests against the ban at the draw for candidates’ numbers on Tuesday, the Post learned.

Officers from one of the companies would be stationed around the venue, a community hall on a public housing estate in Aberdeen, one source said, adding that the other company would be on standby at Aberdeen Police Station and somewhere in Ap Lei Chau.

Wong had applied to run in the South Horizons West constituency of Southern District Council.

The former student leader of the 2014 Occupy movement had been grilled on his party Demosisto’s founding mission to strive for Hong Kong’s “self-determination”. The party had also called for a referendum on the city’s future, including independence from China as an option.

On Saturday, Wong received his third inquiry from a returning officer, in this case Laura Liang Aron, who replaced Dorothy Ma Chau Pui-fun, who took indefinite sick leave.

In response, Wong for the first time made clear that he and Demosisto “do not promote and support independence as an option of self-determination”. He also clarified his position in earlier replies, saying any referendum the group put forward would be non-binding.

On Tuesday morning, Aron gave a six-page ruling on Wong’s candidacy.

She noted that Wong in his reply had referred to a recent statement by President Xi Jinping, calling it a “stern threat” against separatism. She said that suggested party and candidate were pressed into dropping advocacy of the option of independence as “a compromise, instead of a genuine intention”.

Banning candidates advocating self-determination and Hong Kong independence from contesting elections is the bottom line the government adheres to


Aron said Wong was trying to “mislead readers that both Demosisto and he have abandoned the notion when neither have in fact done so”.

Quoting Wong’s reply that he subscribed to the notion that “under non-binding ways of gauging public opinion, the independence of Hong Kong can be an option for self-determination”, Aron further suggested that his concept of self-determination “is clearly incompatible with the Basic Law”.

Citing a legal ruling from the case of former separatist party leader Andy Chan Ho-tin, who was barred from a 2016 election, Aron said “the requirement to uphold the Basic Law denotes not just a compliance of it but also an intention to support and promote it”.

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah and her department probably advised the returning officer in the case, a legal source said. But the Department of Justice refused to confirm or disclose any communication with the returning officer, saying any exchange was privileged.

The Electoral Affairs Commission also did not say whether Aron had sought legal advice from the justice department. “Depending on the individual case, the returning officer will consult legal advice… to make a decision on whether an applicant’s nomination is valid,” it said on Sunday.

A source familiar with the processing of nominations for district council elections said Wong’s replies to the returning officers’ queries showed he was not really keen on running in the polls, as he failed to demonstrate any departure from Demosisto’s stance on self-determination.

“Banning candidates advocating self-determination and Hong Kong independence from contesting elections is the bottom line the government adheres to,” the source said.

The source said the government had established a mechanism to allow those who had been disqualified over self-determination and independence calls to enter the race, if they indicated categorically they had renounced such stances.

Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, a pro-democracy lawmaker previously barred from running in a village representative election due to advocacy of “self-determination”, was given the green light last week to run in the district council elections.

The confirmation, from the same electoral official who had banned him last year, came after Chu gave a single-word response “yes” to the question of whether he had renounced advocacy for independence as an option.

The government has allowed several candidates previously linked to self-determination advocacy to run in district council elections.

Chu is now running in Pat Heung South constituency in Yuen Long district, against former school principal Lai Wing-tim.

The incumbent councillor in South Horizons West is Judy Chan Ka-pui of the New People’s Party. Just before deadline last week, Kelvin Lam Ho-por also enrolled and was widely believed to be Wong’s substitute in case the activist was barred from running.



Category: Hong Kong

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