The Hong Kong government declared an unprecedented 12 pro-democracy politicians’ candidacies for September’s legislative elections invalid on Thursday, saying it would not rule out the possibility of further disqualifications.

HKFP has rounded up reactions to the move from local as well as international politicians and human rights groups.

democratic camp primaries legco 2020
(Top, left to right) Winnie Yu, Tiffany Yuen, Frankie Fung, Kinda Li, Henry Wong, Sam Cheung, Ng Kin-wai, Ventus Lau, Gwyneth Ho, Eddie Chu. (Bottom, left to right) Fergus Leung, Sunny Cheung, Joshua Wong, Lester Shum, Wong Ji-yuet, Owen Chow. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

69 Members of the Parliaments from 17 countries, Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC)

“The decision to disqualify democratic candidates and the anticipated delay to September’s Legislative Council elections represent unacceptable obstructions to the democratic process in Hong Kong and raise further concerns about the erosions of rights and freedoms in the city.

After the widely condemned imposition of the national security law, these actions further curtail of Hong Kong’s way and will exacerbate existing grievances in the city at a time of increased tension.

We urge the international community to meet this further diminution of Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms with a proportionate response.”

UK members of the IPAC, in a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab

“The claim that such drastic was necessary to curb the spread of Covid-19 is cynical in the extreme, especially in the light of successful recent elections held in the region where the daily rate of infection has been significant higher than in Hong Kong.

We believe that this further diminution of Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms must be met with a proportionate response. We urge you to send a strong signal against impunity by identifying the officials in the Hong Kong Special Adminstrative Region responsible for the dramatic decline in the city’s autonomy and removing from them the privileges they currently enjoy in the UK.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab

“I condemn the decision to disqualify opposition candidates from standing in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections.

It is clear they have been disqualified because of their political views, undermining the integrity of One Country, Two Systems and the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Joint Declaration and Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

The Hong Kong authorities must uphold their commitments to the people of Hong Kong.”

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Dominic Raab at a Covid-19 presser. File photo: Number 10 via Flickr.

US Senator Marco Rubio

“The outrageous disqualification of 12 candidates for Hong Kong [Legislative Council] elections in September shows the Chinese Communist Party’s determination to remake the city in its image.

The Administration must use the tools Congress has given it to push back and hold officials accountable.”

Luke de Pulford of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission

“Another hammer-blow to Hong King’s autonomy. ‘Lifeboat’ policies have clearly been inadequate to curb Beijing’s bullying. It’s time for coordinated sanctions.”

The Hong Kong government

“The HKSAR government states that the nominations of these 12 nominees have been invalidated by returning officers since these 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 decisions of returning officers aim to ensure that the election is held in strict accordance with the [Basic Law] and other applicable laws in an open, honest and fair 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. The HKSAR government fully supports returning officers in the discharge of statutory duties in accordance with the laws.”

China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong

“The candidates whose nominations were invalidated have said or done something that crossed the legal bottom line: some advocate Hong Kong independence and self-determination; some ‘snitched’ to the West, begged for foreign sanctions against Hong Kong and interfered with the special administrative region’s affairs; some stated they would indiscriminately veto the government’s budget and bills upon election as a way to paralyse the government; some were fundamentally against safeguarding national security in Hong Kong and claimed they would continue to resist until the end. It is notorious and scandalous.

These people came to paralyse the SAR government, subvert the state and bring mutual destruction to Hong Kong. How could they possibly sincerely uphold the Basic Law and serve the country, as well as the Hong Kong SAR? How could we let these villains conspire to destroy the One Country, Two Systems framework, the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong at the legislature while bearing crucial constitutional responsibilities?

The spokesperson [for the Liaison Office] emphasises that Mr Deng Xiaoping pointed out the boundaries and principles for ‘Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong.’ That is, Hong Kong must be ruled by patriots. To sincerely uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the People’s Republic of China Hong Kong SAR are basic political requirements and ethical principles that should be abided by all politicians.”

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File Photo: HKFP.

Tuen Mun District Councillor Sam Cheung

Localist activist Cheung is running for the New Territories West constituency in the upcoming election. The electoral office has yet to confirm his candidacy. On Facebook, he highlighted the number of votes each candidate won in the primaries as indicative of their public support.

“Today, the Hong Kong Communist government has politically oppressed 12 legislative elections candidates through disqualifications. Nine of them stood in the primaries.

Hong Kong Island: Tiffany Yuen (19844 votes), Fergus Leung (14743 votes), Tat Cheng (11090 votes)

Kowloon East: Joshua Wong (31398 votes)

New Territories West: Kwok Ka-ki (13354 votes)

New Territories East: Gwyneth Ho (26802 votes), Ventus Lau (26707 votes), Alvin Yeung (25366 votes)

‘Super district councillors’: Lester Shum (129074 votes)

It’s a total of 169304 votes. They vividly represent people’s voice amid the oppression under the national security law. Yet the Hong Kong Communist government has stubbornly antagonised its people just to please the Chinese Communist Party and blatantly trample on Hongkongers’ views. The Hong Kong Communist government claimed they were against mutual destruction, but it is also the Hong Kong Communist government who accelerated the process of mutual destruction.”

Pro-democracy activist Glacier Kwong

“According to the letters from the government, a candidate not only has to ‘not opposing’ the [national security law], but also has to support it and promotes it. So abiding the law means being completely submissive to the [Chinese Communist Party] regime.

Basically all candidates that oppose the national security law are banned from running. They are deprived of their rights to take part in an election.”

Human Rights Watch China Director Sophie Richardson

“Yes, when a nomination period is more about disqualifying candidates, rights to peaceful expression are tossed in the trash (compare with district council [election]). Will [the Legislative Council election] go ahead on schedule now that China Hong Kong governments have the ‘contest’ they want?”

July 27, 2019 Yuen Long protest
Protesters form a defence line with umbrellas in Yuen Long on July 27, 2019. Photo: Studio Incendo.

Amnesty International Hong Kong Programme Manager Lam Cho Ming

“This move is likely to intensify the climate of fear and tension in Hong Kong, where opposition figures, their supporters, activists on the streets and even ordinary people have been forced to self-censor their political discourse to avoid being targeted under the city’s new national security law.

For all the Hong Kong government’s insistence that these decisions do not restrict ‘freedom of speech,’ its actions reek of political repression. These disqualifications appear to be arbitrary, given that the authorities’ own justification makes clear their intention to punish peaceful criticism and advocacy of opposing views.”

Hong Kong Watch Director Johnny Patterson

“The political screening of moderate democrats brings home the reality of the new status quo. The idea that it is unconstitutional for lawmakers to oppose the national security law is totally absurd. International governments must respond proportionately to this attack on Hong Kong’s freedoms.”

Meanwhile, on Hong Kong’s Reddit-like LIHKG forum, netizens voiced their support for the mass disqualifications, saying the results were anticipated.

  • “They have successfully accelerated the mutual destruction [between protesters and Beijing.] We have indeed won overwhelmingly,” wrote one user.
  • “Actually it’s just what everyone has expected,” user UST South Asian wrote.

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Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.