The Hong Kong government announced on Thursday, July 30, that it has disqualified 12 pro-democracy candidates from running in this year’s Legislative Council election scheduled to take place on September 6. It is unclear if the elections will be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the government said that the 12 disqualified candidates “are not in compliance with the requirement under the Legislative Council Ordinance.” Nominees for the city’s top decision-making body were required to submit a nomination form that included a signed declaration pledging allegiance to Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China, in addition to promising to uphold the Basic Law, also known as Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
“The Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region government reiterates that upholding the Basic Law is a fundamental constitutional duty of every Legislative Council Member,” the government wrote in its statement, adding that individuals who advocate for Hong Kong independence, solicit foreign intervention, or object to the city’s new national security law would be unable to “genuinely” perform the duties of being a Legislative Council member.
Last month, China passed a sweeping new national security law in Hong Kong that bans all forms of secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with a foreign power. It threatens a maximum sentence of life in prison and has already been used to arrest dozens of protesters over the last month.
On Wednesday, July 29, the Hong Kong Police Force prompted widespread public outrage after announcing that it had arrested four students between the ages of 16 to 21 for violating the national security law by “advocating for Hong Kong independence.”
According to Hong Kong Free Press, Demosisto founder Joshua Wong and Civic Party leader Alvin Yueng were among the 12 nominees banned from running.
In a thread on Twitter on Monday, July 27, Wong wrote that he considered the government’s vetting of its Legislative Council candidates a “large-scale witch hunt” aimed at disqualifying pro-democracy candidates. After learning of his disqualification on Thursday, Wong wrote that Beijing was engaging in its “biggest ever crackdown on the city’s elections.”
Hong Kong’s government denied that it was engaging in political censorship through its decision.
“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,” it said in its statement.
Last year’s local elections saw record voter turnout and allowed pro-democracy candidates to win hundreds of seats.