By Kelly Ho, Tom Grundy and Jennifer Creery

Joshua Wong and 11 other Hong Kong pro-democracy election hopefuls have been disqualified from running in the 2020 Legislative Council election.

HKFP confirmed with Civic Party’s leader Alvin Yeung that his nomination was ruled as invalid by returning officers on Thursday. His colleagues Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Tat Cheng were also banned.

disqualified 2020 lawmakers election
Alvin Cheng, Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Tat Cheng, Kwok Ka-Ki, Joshua Wong, Kenneth Leung, Ventus Lau, Gwyneth Ho, Tiffany Yuen, Lester Shum, and Fergus Leung.

Pro-democracy activist Lester Shum and Southern District Councillor Tiffany Yuen also announced on Facebook that they were barred from running in the September race. Civic Passion’s Alvin Cheng, as well as Central and Western District Councillor Fergus Leung, pro-democracy lawmaker Kenneth Leung and activists Ventus Lau and Gwyneth Ho were also banned.

A government spokesperson confirmed that a dozen candidates had been disqualified and said that all nominees must uphold the Basic Law. They said that lawmakers cannot promote independence or self-determination for Hong Kong, seek intervention from foreign governments, object in principle to the national security law or express an intention to vote down “any legislative proposals, appointments, funding applications and budgets introduced by the HKSAR Government after securing a majority in the LegCo so as to force the Government to accede to certain political demands.”

“[T]hese nominations are not in compliance with the requirement under the Legislative Council Ordinance. 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,” the spokesperson added.

gwyneth ho legco democratic camp primary
Gwyneth Ho. Photo: Gwyneth Ho, via Facebook.

According to a letter shared by Gwyneth Ho, returning officer Amy Yeung cited her opposition to the Beijing-enforced national security law as a reason for ruling that she did not have a “genuine and true intention” to uphold the Basic Law. “It is an obvious sham for the candidate to say she does not object the HKSAR’s constitutional obligation to safeguard national security under the principle of One Country, Two Systems in accordance with the Basic Law,” Yeung wrote.

‘Bigger-ever crackdown’

Joshua Wong said on Twitter that the Kowloon East electoral officer said he had openly described the national security law as “draconian,” thus was deemed as not supporting the legislation. The political group he founded, Demosisto, was disbanded before the security law took effect a month ago.

However, returning officer Alice Choi wrote: “It seems to me that the real reason for the candidate’s resignation from Demosisto and Demosisto’s disbandment was to avoid being caught under the newly passed national security law.”

She said Wong had continued to pursue the objectives and political agenda of the group, including through engaging in the “international front,” which Choi said had been part of the group’s plan to achieve democratic self-determination.

Choi claimed that the idea of self-determination – which includes independence as an option for Hong Kong’s future – amounted to a refusal to accept China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, despite Wong saying he accepted Beijing’s sovereignty in his reply to Choi’s questions.

Joshua Wong
Joshua Wong. File photo: Studio Incendo.

Choi concluded that Wong did not have a “genuine and truthful intention” to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the HKSAR.

She wrote objecting to the enactment of the national security law would, in principle, be seen as failing to embrace One Country, Two Systems; therefore candidates “cannot have the intention to uphold the Basic Law.”

In response, Wong said the election bans showed a disregard for the will of Hongkongers: “#Beijing now staged the biggest-ever [crackdown] on the city’s election, by disqualifying nearly all pro-democracy runners, from young progressive groups to traditional moderate parties… Our resistance will continue on and we hope the world can stand with us in the upcoming uphill battle.”

Nevertheless, in its statement on Thursday, the government said the elections were being organised in a fair, open and honest manner: “There is no question of any political censorship, restriction of the freedom of speech or deprivation of the right to stand for elections as alleged by some members of the community.”

Year of protest

Last week, electoral officers sent letters to more than ten pro-democracy candidates containing questions about their political stance – including on the national security law and US sanctions. All had to provide answers within 24 hours. Recipients have decried the move as part of an organised “witch hunt” to selectively vet and bar pan-democrats from running in September’s race.

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Pro-democracy primaries. File Photo: Studio Incendo.

Last November, the pro-democracy camp won a landslide victory in the district council elections in what some considered to be a referendum on the government’s actions. It came amid months of political unrest, leading to Beijing’s imposition of controversial national security legislation, criminalising secession, sedition, terrorism and foreign interference.

The nomination period of the LegCo election, which began on July 18, will end on Friday.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.