Joshua Wong and 11 other pro-democracy activists were disqualified Thursday morning from running in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council election scheduled for September. Wong said he was disqualified for describing Beijing’s new national security law as “draconian” on Twitter.
In the semi-autonomous city’s primaries, Wong received 30,000 votes, the highest share of all candidates. Wong described his disqualification as “the biggest-ever crackdown” on the city’s pro-democracy movement.
Hong Kong’s government insists the activists were disqualified for being “unscrupulous delinquents” and claims they have violated several campaign rules, such as criticizing Beijing’s new security law and refusing to recognize China’s sovereignty over the financial hub.
The highly controversial national security law violates Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” model promised by Britain and Beijing during Hong Kong’s 1997 handover.
The regulation introduces harsher sentences for subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, with the possibility of life in prison. The rule also makes it easier for China to punish protesters and decreases Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous rule.
The United States, United Nations, and Amnesty International have all denounced the new legislation as undemocratic.
This is a painful moment for the people of Hong Kong. This new national security law must not become a weapon of fear. pic.twitter.com/16qbuZegMw
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) July 28, 2020
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a cross-party group of legislators reforming how democratic countries respond to China, called the decision to disqualify opposition leaders an “unacceptable obstruction” to Hong Kong’s democratic processes. The Alliance also called on foreign powers to take a proportionate response to the erosion of rights and freedoms in the city.
The disqualifications come a day after four student activists were arrested under suspicion of violating the national security law on social media.
This is huge: Tony Chung of Studentlocalism was arrested by national security officers for inciting secession, his group says. Previous NSL arrests were made during protests. This could be the first arrest made following police’s investigation. He is 19. pic.twitter.com/hWb6vPs4Id
— Jeffie Lam (@jeffielam) July 29, 2020
The students, aged between 16 and 21, were former members of Student Localism, a pro-democracy student group that disbanded a day before the new measures were implemented. All four are accused of undermining national unification and secession and inciting or assisting secession.
These disqualifications of opposition candidates and arrests of Hong Kong’s youth leaders are the latest examples of China encroaching on Hong Kong’s freedoms.