Beijing has stepped up its rhetoric against the Hong Kong pro-democracy camp’s primary election, slamming it a “blatant provocation” towards the city’s mini-constitution and the newly-enacted national security law.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) issued a strongly-worded statement on Tuesday, echoing earlier criticism of the weekend primaries from China’s liaison office in Hong Kong. Beijing’s representative blasted the two-day vote – aimed at narrowing the list of democratic candidates to run in September’s legislative election – as a “serious challenge” to the HKSAR’s constitutional order and electoral system.

Photo: Stand News.

“It is an erosion of the lawful power of the SAR to organise elections, a betrayal of the rules of fairness in elections, and a blatant provocation to Hong Kong’s Basic Law and the national security law. It must not be allowed,” an HKMAO spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said any primary election or referendum would be deemed unlawful in Hong Kong as it would have no legal effect or constitutional basis. The office also accused poll co-organiser and legal scholar Benny Tai of creating “chaos” in the city.

They claimed pro-democracy candidates, who hope to win more than 35 seats to gain a majority in the legislature, had “evil” intentions and would turn Hong Kong into a base for “infiltration” and “subversion.”

“These so-called primaries are not isolated incidents, they have clear political aims… they are the mutation of ‘black violence’ and ‘mutual destruction’.”

Photo: GovHK.

Last month, China’s top legislature enacted legislation criminalising secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong. Violators could face up to life imprisonment.

More than 610,000 Hongkongers cast their votes over the weekend, according to co-organising political group Power for Democracy. They announced the initial polling results on Monday evening after counting 590,000 electronic ballots, with localist candidates taking the lead across different constituencies.

Some incumbent lawmakers and long-standing opposition figures have trailed behind. Democratic Party’s Helena Wong – who has served two terms in the legislature since 2012 – admitted defeat in the Kowloon West primaries on Tuesday. She said she would not take part in the September election.

No mechanism of primaries

The Electoral Affairs Commission said on Tuesday that local laws do not reference a mechanism for primary elections, therefore any vote could not be considered as part of the public electoral procedure.

Helena Wong (centre). Photo: Inmediahk.net, via CC 2.0.

The commission said current legislation only allows candidates to pull out of the election within the nomination period, which runs from Saturday to July 31.

It also pointed to Article 29 of the security legislation to caution against colluding with foreign forces to undermine an election in Hong Kong.

‘Oppose mutual destruction’

The city’s largest pro-Beijing party, the DAB, announced it would send 12 lists of candidates to stand in the Legislative Council election. It will have seven teams competing in geographical constituencies, four teams in the functional constituencies and one team in the District Council (First).

DAB members meet the press on July 14, 2020. Photo: Stand News screenshot.

Standing in front of the slogan “Oppose mutual destruction, save Hong Kong,” DAB Chair Starry Lee accused some people of engaging in “political mutual destruction.” She said those people may attempt to seize control of the Legislative Council to oppose the government’s annual budget as well as other bills, thus paralysing the legislature.

“What they are going to do will sacrifice the One Country, Two System, sacrifice Hongkongers and Hong Kong,” she said.

Lee said she believed the law enforcement agencies would seriously investigate the primaries. She added the poll did not affect the DAB’s strategic planning for the election.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.