The head of Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy party has come under fierce attack from the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, which accused him of blocking members from standing in Sunday’s “patriots only” election and urged party members to “clean its house.”

In an editorial on Thursday, the People’s Daily also accused Lo Kin-hei, chair of the Democratic Party, of “not considering the long term interests of Hong Kong citizens and Hong Kong society” and “following the pace of western anti-China politicians.”

Chairperson of the Democratic Party Lo Kin-hei. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“Under the hijacking by people like Lo Kin-hei, the Democratic Party cannot perform the basic function of participating in or discussing politics, nor can it protect the political rights of ordinary party members,” the editorial read.

It was published three days before Sunday’s “patriots-only” election for the Legislative Council, the first under a revamp ordered by Beijing which sharply cuts democratic representation.

The Democratic Party did not put forward any candidates after saying that no party members had applied to run. It also rejected endorsement requests from five self-proclaimed “non-pro-establishment” candidates.

Several members and former leaders of the party, including its former chair Wu Chi-wai and ex-legislators Lam Cheuk-ting, Andrew Wan and Helena Wong, are currently either serving jail sentences over protest-related charges or are in custody awaiting trial under the national security law.

The editorial accused Lo of stopping party members from running in the election, and “manipulating” the central committee in an “extremely authoritarian” way to issue a questionnaire to candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s endorsement.

“People with breath of vision in the Democratic Party should wake up as soon as possible, and rethink the position of the political group, and turn to the practical path of serving Hong Kong,” the People’s Daily editorial said.

“At the same time, clean its house, and scrape the poison off the bone, avoiding wandering further on the wrong path and falling into the abyss.”

Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“Under the principle of ‘patriots governing Hong Kong,’ those advocating for political quarrels and societal ‘mutual destruction’ will lose their footing, and those who are genuine for the good of Hong Kong will get an even broader room to develop.”

In March 2021, Beijing passed legislation to ensure “patriots” govern Hong Kong. The move sharply reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates.

The Hong Kong government said the overhaul would ensure the city’s stability and prosperity. But the changes also prompted international condemnation, as it makes it near-impossible for pro-democracy candidates to stand.

Major pro-democracy groups are sitting out the election and only about a dozen of the 153 candidates describe themselves as non pro-establishment.

However, the authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing are keen to present the election as a genuine contest and have taken steps – including an intensive advertising campaign – to try to boost the turnout.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.