Hong Kong bars pro-democracy candidates from election, signals intent to uphold new China law

Hong Kong disqualified at least 12 pro-democracy nominees from an upcoming election after the government said the candidates failed to pledge allegiance to both Hong Kong and Beijing.

Among those barred Thursday from the September legislative election are prominent pro-democracy activist Tiffany Yuen, incumbent lawmaker Dennis Kwok from the pro-democracy Civic Party, and Joshua Wong, an activist who topped the polls in an unofficial primary earlier this month.

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“#Beijing shows a total disregard for the will of the #Hongkongers, tramples upon the city’s last pillar of vanishing autonomy and attempts to keep #HK’s legislature under its firm grip,” Wong wrote on Twitter following news of the disqualifications.

The government said candidates for the Legislative Council, which helps to make and amend Hong Kong’s laws, will be invalidated if they advocated or promoted the territory’s independence, solicited intervention by foreign governments in its affairs or expressed “an objection in principle” to the imposition of the national security law by central authorities in Beijing, the BBC reported.

Other nominations still were being reviewed, the government said in a statement expressing support for the disqualifications. It would not rule out the possibility that more nominations would be invalidated.

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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called on Congress to push back and hold officials accountable.

“The outrageous disqualification of 12 candidates for #HongKong LegCo elections in September shows the Chinese Communist Party’s determination to remake the city in its image,” Rubio wrote on Twitter.

The decisions signal Hong Kong’s intent to enforce Beijing’s national security law that China’s legislature put into effect June 30 following increasingly violent pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The Hong Kong police recently arrested four youths, aged 16 to 21, on suspicion of inciting secession through an organization for Hong Kong independence on social media.

Pro-democracy activists Lee Cheuk-Yan, right, and Yeung Sum speak to media outside a district court in Hong Kong on Thursday. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Pro-democracy activists Lee Cheuk-Yan, right, and Yeung Sum speak to media outside a district court in Hong Kong on Thursday. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Earlier this week, pro-democracy leader Benny Tai was removed from his tenured position as associate law professor at Hong Kong University in an 18-2 vote by the university’s governing council.

Tai has been out on bail since being sentenced to 16 months in prison in April 2019 for his part in a 2014 drive for universal suffrage known as the Umbrella Movement.

While the election disqualifications are a marked setback for the pro-democracy group, Wong said that they will not give up.

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“However, in order to safeguard the city’s future, #HKers will not surrender,” Wong wrote. “Our resistance will continue on and we hope the world can stand with us in the upcoming uphill battle.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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