Joshua Wong Barred from Running in Local Hong Kong Elections

Activist Joshua Wong, who won both global recognition and stints in jail for his role leading the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests, has been denied the right to run for District Council elections in Hong Kong. Next month’s election comes as youth-led protests in the territory have expanded from opposition to a proposed extradition law to broader calls for government accountability and democratic rights. While Wong has no leadership role in the largely leaderless current protest movement, he has been publicly supportive of it. Austin Ramzy and Elaine Yu report for The New York Times:

The government cited statements by Mr. Wong’s political organization that the future of Hong Kong should be determined by its people, and independence is a possible option. An official said those statements were incompatible with the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which states that the semiautonomous city is part of China.

“The candidate cannot possibly comply with the requirements of the relevant electoral laws, since advocating or promoting ‘self-determination’ is contrary to the content of the declaration that the law requires a candidate to make to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance” to Hong Kong, the government said in a statement.

Mr. Wong said the decision showed that China’s central government was manipulating the election, which is expected to be a key test of public sentiment about the protest movement.

[…] The district council elections, which will be held on Nov. 24, are usually focused on local issues such as bus stops and neighborhood beautification. But the race is taking on a broader political significance this year. Whichever side wins the most seats will control 117 votes in the 1,200-member election committee that chooses the next chief executive, Hong Kong’s top government position. [Source]

In a press conference after the decision was announced, Wong denied that he had advocated for Hong Kong’s independence, as CNN’s Eric Cheung reports:

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Wong said the decision “is clearly politically driven.”

“I do not propose separatism as an option in the self-determination,” Wong said. “The returning officer has falsely interpreted my political stance.”

He said the decision was due to his prominence as an activist, saying it was an “order from Beijing, a political mission from Beijing.”

Wong said he is “actively considering” appealing the ruling, and urged supporters to vote for pro-democracy candidates in the election. [Source]

Shibani Mahtani reports further for the Washington Post on the reasons for Wong’s exclusion:

Wong, the only candidate to be disqualified, has said he does not support Hong Kong’s independence, nor is it the official line of his party, Demosisto.

Excluding Wong was clearly a “politically driven” decision, said Kenneth Chan, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University who is running a project observing the local elections.

“Obviously Joshua Wong’s disqualification has a lot to do with his global profile as well as his activism in Hong Kong and overseas,” Chan said. “I believe that Beijing and the Hong Kong authorities now seek retaliation so that he would be kept outside the electoral systems.”

[…] The decision comes as pro-democracy candidates look poised to gain in the Nov. 24 vote from public fears over an erosion of freedoms in the Asian financial hub. Wong, a leader of 2014 pro-democracy protests, has criticized China’s tightening grip on the territory and advocated for stronger international action against the Hong Kong government and its allies in Beijing. [Source]

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