Hong Kong bars 12 prominent democracy activists from election

WION Web Team Hong Kong Jul 30, 2020, 03.34 PM(IST)

File photo: Former student leader Joshua Wong. Photograph:( Reuters )

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Disqualified candidates included pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, one of the city's best known activists, and some members of the Civic Party and others who won an unofficial 'primary' vote held by the opposition camp earlier this month.

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.

Disqualified candidates included pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, one of the city's best known activists, and some members of the Civic Party and others who won an unofficial "primary" vote held by the opposition camp earlier this month.

"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," Wong wrote in a tweet.

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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".

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Other prominent young activists like him who are staunchly critical of Beijing and were also disqualified included Gwyneth Ho, Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen and Fergus Leung.

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Critics say the move is aimed at curbing the ascendancy of a young generation of democrats after an overwhelming win in last year's lower-level district council elections.

The government said there could be more disqualifications.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.

Prior to this election, authorities had barred 18 democrats from running in local polls, according to a report by the rights group Civil Rights Observer.

At least six young candidates were barred from the previous legislative poll in 2016, including pro-independence leader Edward Leung, who has since been jailed on a rioting charge.