Candidates banned from entering the March legislative by-election have protested at an official briefing attended by officials.

Demosisto’s Agnes Chow, who was barred from running in the Hong Kong Island constituency, gained entry to the Lai Chi Kok venue as an election agent for candidate Au Nok-hin. Au is considered to be her substitute by the pro-democracy camp.

Agnes Chow (right). Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

As Judge Barnabas Fung, chair of Electoral Affairs Commission, appeared at the venue, Chow and fellow party activists including Joshua Wong staged a protest.

“Shame on banning candidates for political views!” they chanted. “Do you choose to not respond to the voice of Hong Kong people?”

Fung had not made any public statements about the disqualifications ahead of Thursday’s session.

Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

When Wong was pushed away by guards, he chanted to election officers: “You will regret barring us. We will fight for democracy.”

After the demonstration Chow said that they were very disappointed and very angry about Fung.

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“We believe Barnabas Fung and the Hong Kong government have the responsibility to ensure the election is fair,” she said. “Don’t shift the responsibility to returning officers.”

Photo: Demosisto.

Returning officers – district officers who temporarily act as election administrators – are only meant to handle administrative matters, not make political decisions, Chow said.

Joshua Wong. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

“We hope he directly answers our questions and does not huddle up like a turtle and avoid us,” Chow added.

Outside the venue, another barred candidate – Ventus Lau – attempted to gain entry with a slip showing he was the election agent for Kowloon West candidate Jonathan Choi. Choi gave Lau authorisation because he believed the Electoral Affairs Commission was unfair in their process.

But Lau was blocked by guards. Reporters were also blocked from entering the venue for around 30 minutes during his demonstration.

“I am a candidate, you have to let a candidate in,” Lau said to guards.

Ventus Lau (right). Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

Chow was disqualified by an election officer last Saturday over her party’s advocacy of self-determination, which Beijing equates to being pro-independence. On Wednesday, localist Ventus Lau was barred from running as an election officer claimed he expressed “an apparent reluctance to denounce his hitherto manifested and sustained stance of independence of Hong Kong.”

Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

Lau wielded a can of Surströmming from Sweden – widely considered to be smelliest fish in the world, as confirmed by an HKFP reporter on the scene.

“But I believe the smell of this fish is not as bad as the corrupt Hong Kong election system – I wished to share this can with Barnabas Fung and election officers… But we were barred from doing that,” he said.

The use of the delicacy is controlled within the European Union and it is banned by several airlines as noxious gases within the tin can cause them to bulge and explode.

Ventus Lau. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

He criticised the police for pulling away his team member when he opened the can outside.

Lau also said a team member had a habit of keeping birds and had brought grasshoppers with him as dozens of the insects were unleashed on the pavement.

“Maybe the grasshoppers also felt the election was so corrupt, they wanted to get in and speak up. I noticed one of them flew in,” he said. “A grasshopper has more power than a disqualified candidate.”

Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

After several failed attempts, Lau gained entry to the venue to address Fung. He claimed that he was able to cross the Chinese border into Shenzhen on Thursday.

“Did the election officer make an incorrect decision or did Chinese customs not perform their duties well – in that an independence advocate entered China” he asked Fung. “Am I really an independence advocate?”

But Fung repeated the government’s position that the disqualification was decided upon by an election officer: “The Electoral Affairs Commission did not participate in the returning officers’ decisions.”

Lau was pulled away by guards after repeatedly demanding answers: “Fuck your mother Barnabas Fung,” he said.

Candidate Au Nok-hin was also able to ask Fung a question during the session.

Au said candidacies should be determined by another independent body – the Nominations Advisory Committee, instead of election officers.

“Barnabas Fung, you ignored procedures,” he said.

But Fung said the committee cannot give advice on matters relating to the Legislative Council Ordinance 40(1), which states that candidates must declare they uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR.

Au said he was disappointed by the answer and left before Fung had finished.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.