The Legislative Council Elections nomination period ended last Friday with Hong Kong’s government barring 12 pro-democracy candidates from the now-postponed race.

Most electoral officers cited a past ruling that disqualified pro-independence activist Andy Chan from running in 2016 legislative elections. They wrote that “an intention to uphold the Basic Law denotes not just a compliance of it but also an intention to support, promote, and embrace it” was required for candidacies to be validated.

basic law
Basic Law. File photo: GovHK.
In full: list of barred candidates – click to view

Kowloon East: Joshua Wong
Hong Kong Island: Fergus Leung, Tiffany Yuen, Alvin Cheng, Tat Cheng
New Territories East: Ventus Lau, Gwyneth Ho, Alvin Yeung
New Territories West: Kwok Ka-ki
District Council (Second): Lester Shum
Functional constituency: Kenneth Leung (Accounting), Dennis Kwok (Legal)

Nine of the 12 candidates stood in the democratic primaries earlier last month. Returning officers scrutinised their social media posts, as well as signed joint statements and participation in foreign government meetings.

The disqualified democrats were accused, among other things, of “objecting the national security law,” “soliciting foreign powers in relation to Hong Kong affairs,” “expressing an intention to abuse the power of [the Legislative Council],” meaning they could not pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR and uphold its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

HKFP looks at electoral officers’ reasons for invalidating the candidates’ nominations.

Opposing the security law

Tiffany Yuen, Fergus Leung, Joshua Wong, Gwyneth Ho, Ventus Lau, Lester Shum and dozens of other legislative hopefuls co-signed a joint statement on July 15 declaring they would “relentlessly oppose the national security law.”

Signatories all vowed not to sign a controversial candidate confirmation form affirming China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, following speculation that the national security law might be included in it for the 2020 elections. This later proved to be true.

Electoral officers addressed the self-proclaimed “resistance camp” candidates’ joint statement, saying “relentlessly opposing” the security law was regarded in principle as objecting to the government’s constitutional obligations under the Basic Law.

Joint statement on “relentlessly opposing the national security law” – click to view

“… Beijing has set a trap to destroy our solidarity and mutual trust. Whether to sign the confirmation form or not has become a dispute. Yet the disqualification of candidacy does not solely depend on whether one has signed or not. The real choice for democrats to make is to walk together, arm in arm, or split ways.

The resistance camp now declares that no matter if the confirmation form contains terms about the national security law, we would relentlessly oppose the law…”

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.

Some candidates also said the enactment of the security law conflicted with existing legal principles. The officers considered this as tantamount to objecting to Hong Kong’s constitutional obligation to safeguard national security.

Vowing to veto the budget

Returning officer Steve Wong accused Fergus Leung of not intending to faithfully perform his duty as a lawmaker after he helped draft a statement promising to exhaust all legislative means to force the government into acceding to demands.

Legco Police barriers July 2020
Police barriers on Legislative Council Road. Photo: Rhoda Kwan/HKFP

“I will use the Legislative Council’s [LegCo] power stipulated in the Basic Law – including vetoing budget bills – to compel the Chief Executive to respond to the five demands,” the joint statement in June read. “To revoke all protester charges, to hold all relevant persons accountable for police brutality and to relaunch political reform in order to achieve universal suffrage.”

Electoral officer’s reasons for disqualifying Fergus Leung- click to view

“The Candidate has expressly committed himself to working with others, after securing a majority in LegCo, to abuse the constitutional role and functions of LegCo by indiscriminately voting down all government proposals so as to force the government to accede to the “five demands”. Objectively speaking, the Candidate does not have any real intention to perform his duties faithfully as a LegCo member (if elected) within the constitutional framework.

Cutting ties with political groups

Activist Joshua Wong, who co-founded the now-disbanded political group Demosisto, resigned from his post before submitting his candidate nomination. Returning Officer Alice Choi accused Wong of promoting self-determination, despite Demosisto removing the concept from its constitution in January. The authorities see the idea as akin to advocating independence for Hong Kong.

joshua wong
Joshua Wong. Photo: Joshua Wong, via Facebook.

“It seems to me 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,” the officer wrote, pointing to the date of Wong’s resignation from Demosisto as a day before the enactment of the security law on June 30.

Choi also cited a past ruling that barred Wong from running in last November’s district council election, despite noting that they were not binding to her present judgement. She concluded that advocacy of “self-determination” was in effect refusing to acknowledge China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong.

Electoral officer’s reasons for disqualifying Joshua Wong – click to view

“Having regard to all relevant circumstances including the matters set out above, I am satisfied that, contrary to the Candidate’s claims in the Reply, Demosisto has never genuinely and unequivocally renounced ‘democratic self-determination’ as its ‘cardinal objective’, and the Candidate will continue to pursue the political agenda and objectives of Demosisto in his personal capacity, including ‘democratic self-determination’, notwithstanding its ‘disbandment’.”

Lobbying foreign governments

Electoral officer Aaron Liu challenged incumbent lawmaker Kenneth Leung – who was seeking re-election in the Accounting sector – for failing to disagree with a call from his political group for the US to impose sanctions on Hong Kong officials.

Liu said the Facebook post from the Professionals Guild on March 8 clearly expressed support for penalties from Washington. Leung denied involvement in such advocacy work. But the officer cited his trip to the US with two other pro-democracy lawmakers and a follow-up press conference where he did not publicly state he disagreed with the position.

Electoral officer’s reasons for disqualifying Kenneth Leung – click to view

“Soliciting foreign governments to interfere with the internal affairs of the PRC [People’s Republic of China] and/or the HKSAR, especially by imposing sanctions, is an act endangering national security. It undermines the PRC’s sovereignty and the HKSAR’s high degree of autonomy, and is therefore fundamentally repugnant to the constitutional framework of ‘one country, two systems’ under which the PRC exercises sovereignty over the HKSAR and the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy. While Mr Leung himself might not be directly requesting or appealing for the US Sanction Actions, the supportive or assistive role he played in pursuing the US Sanction Actions is clearly far from meeting the aforesaid statutory requirement to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the HKSAR of PRC.”

Meanwhile, the returning officer for Lester Shum – who was running for the super district councillor seat – also highlighted his trips to Denmark and Norway in February. During that time, he advocated for the enforcement of the Magnitsky Act against Hong Kong officials over alleged human rights violations in last year’s pro-democracy protests.

Banned protest slogan

Electoral officer Steve Wong challenged Tiffany Yuen for displaying the banned protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times,” in a now-deleted photo posted to her Instagram account on January 7. The government declared the phrase to be pro-independence, albeit after Yuen had submitted her nomination on July 21.

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Liberate Hong Kong; Revolution of our Times. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Wong further wrote that the slogan was placed next to a nameplate containing her official title as an elected district councillor, which signified her support for it. He added a failure to remove the photo constituted “continuous display” of the outlawed phrase. He asked Yuen whether the post indicated her intention to refuse to accept China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong.

Electoral officer’s reasons for disqualifying Tiffany Yuen – click to view

“Although she had not posted anything with such contents on any platform after the issuance of the Press Release, she did not take any action to remove the picture from her Instagram either. She only removed it with reluctance, and according to her, temporarily after my said letter to her on 25 July 2020 for the purpose of avoiding an adverse decision on her nomination to be made by me.

It is evident to me that the Candidate has never wanted to dissociate from her political stance, that is, to overthrow the current Government or to advocate the separation of the HKSAR from the PRC.”

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rachel wong

Rachel Wong

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.