12 pro-democracy hopefuls barred from Legco election

Top News | Amy Nip, Maisy Mok and Sophie Hui 31 Jul 2020

Twelve pro-democracy nominees, including activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung and four Civic Party politicians, have been disqualified from the Legislative Council election, with returning officers citing their opposition to the national security law and encouraging foreign interference.

In what the camp denounced as the biggest crackdown yet, those disqualified include "radical" protest organizer Ventus Lau Wing-hong and moderates such as accounting-sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong.

Civic Party leader and lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu and party members Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, who represents the legal sector, Kwok Ka-ki, the New Territories West legislator, and district councillor Cheng Tat-hung were also given the boot.

Others disqualified include former Occupy student leader Lester Shum, who is also a district councilor, reporter-turned-activist Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam, district councilors Tiffany Yuen Ka-wai and Fergus Leung Fong-wai, and localist Alvin Cheng Kam-mun.

Wong said yesterday: "Despite more than 610,000 Hongkongers voting in the pro-democracy camp's primary, Beijing has 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.

"Clearly, Beijing shows a total disregard for the will of Hongkongers, tramples upon the city's last pillar of vanishing autonomy and attempts to keep Hong Kong's legislature under its firm grip," he said.

In a statement yesterday, the government supported their disqualification, saying candidates should uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the SAR.

It referred to the High Court judgment in independence advocate Chan Ho-tin's case that intention to uphold the Basic Law denotes "not just compliance with it, but also an intention to support, promote and embrace it."

It listed five reasons for which candidates can be disqualified. Advocating for Hong Kong independence or self-determination, and soliciting intervention by foreign governments or political authorities are definitely out.

Those who expressed an objection in principle to the security law, and an intention to indiscriminately vote down government bills and budgets after securing a majority in Legislative Council so as to force the government to meet political demands cannot run.

It also cited refusal to recognize the central government's exercise of sovereignty over the SAR.

For Civic Party members, returning officers said the party supported the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed in the United States, which allows sanctions against officials responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong.

Another reason is that the party said it would vote down the government's budget if Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor did not fulfill the five demands of protesters.

"An agreed plan to indiscriminately vote down all proposals from the government in collusion with each other as professed in one's election manifesto as early as when running as a candidate to form a majority of Legco members is clearly an abuse of the constitutional role," Amy Yeung Eai-sum, the returning officer, wrote in disqualifying Yeung.

Wong, the former Demosisto secretary general, was disqualified after calling the security law "evil." Although the group disbanded, Wong was said to intend to continue making efforts on the so-called "international front," which returning officer Alice Choi said equals soliciting interference by foreign governments, and to continue Demosisto's objective of pressing for democratic self-determination.

Shum and former Stand News reporter Ho were disqualified for their opposition to the security law, which raised suspicions about whether they support one country, two systems.

Shum visited Denmark in February to seek support from lawmakers to implement the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to sanction officials and police officers in Hong Kong.

But Shum reacted positively to disqualification. He said: "This development is the best for Hong Kong in a stalemate. Large-scale disqualifications would definitely trigger reaction from the international community. The authoritarian regime will have to pay a price for its brutality."

Kenneth Leung was said to have played a supporting role in US sanctions on Hong Kong as he did not draw a line or show dissent against US sanctions before, during and after his visit to the US in March.

Political commentator Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the disqualification of pro-democratic candidates could indicate a change in the Legislative Council's image, affecting its legitimacy, as it can no longer represent the public.

But a government spokesman claimed there was no political censorship, restriction of freedom of speech or deprivation of the right to stand for election as alleged.

Executive councilor Ronny Tong Ka-wah said an increasing number of people are testing Beijing's bottom line in an extremely unhealthy political situation. Disqualifications reflect people have an incorrect understanding of the city's mini-constitution.

The Liaison Office expressed firm support of the disqualifications, saying the decisions were based strictly on the Basic Law, national security law and local election laws.

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