Hong Kong elections: candidate disqualification faces international criticism

The Hong Kong government’s decision to disqualify 12 opposition pro-democracy figures from running in elections has been internationally condemned.

The strongest remark came from British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who said: “I condemn the decision to disqualify opposition candidates from standing in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections.”

He said it was “clear they have been disqualified because of their political views”, adding that “the Hong Kong authorities must uphold their commitments to the people of Hong Kong”.

The government decision, Raab said, undermined the integrity of “one country, two systems” principle – which stipulates China’s relationship with Hong Kong – and the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

In addition, lawmakers from more than a dozen countries issued a statement on what they called “the obstruction of the democratic process”.

“We urge the international community to meet this further diminution of Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms with a proportionate response,” said the group led by US Senator Marco Rubio and former British Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith.

Reinhard Butikofer, the European Parliament member in charge of China, called on European Union leaders to impose sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Chris Patten, former British governor of Hong Kong, called it “an outrageous political purge of Hong Kong’s democrats”.

“The national security law is being used to disenfranchise the majority of Hong Kong’s citizens,” Patten said. “It is obviously now illegal to believe in democracy, although this was what Beijing promised in and after the Joint Declaration. This is the sort of behaviour that you would expect in a police state.”

Citing the city’s national security law and the pan-democrats’ previous calls for foreign governments to sanction Beijing and Hong Kong as key reasons, election officials on Thursday invalidated the candidacies of four incumbent lawmakers – the Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Dennis Kwok and Kwok Ka-ki, along with that of accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor attends a press conference at Central Government Offices (CGO) in Tamar to announce tightened measures in curbing COVID-19 from further spreading in the community. 19JUL20 SCMP / Edmond So alt=Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor attends a press conference at Central Government Offices (CGO) in Tamar to announce tightened measures in curbing COVID-19 from further spreading in the community. 19JUL20 SCMP / Edmond So

The returning officers cited similar reasons, as well as the opposition hopefuls’ pledge to vote down the government’s budget and other proposals should it win its first-ever legislative majority, in barring four activists including Joshua Wong and four district councillors.

Speaking on Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the Hong Kong government to proceed with the election as planned on September 6.

“The next big marker will be a set of elections scheduled for – goodness – a month and half from now on September 6th … They must proceed on time. They must be held,” Pompeo said on The Joe Pags Show, a radio programme.

“The people of Hong Kong deserve to have their voice represented by the elected officials that they choose in those elections.

“If they destroy that, if they take that down, it will be another marker that will simply prove that the Chinese Communist Party has now made Hong Kong just another communist-run city,” Pompeo added.

Several Hong Kong media outlets on Wednesday reported the government may delay the election for a year. There was no announcement on Thursday.

While pro-Beijing lawmakers said the election should be delayed because of coronavirus, pan-democrats accuse them of usurping an election highly likely to result in the first ever majority for the opposition camp.

Meanwhile, China’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, accused the UK of having “poisoned the atmosphere” of its relations with China and said that it is putting the post-Brexit vision of “Global Britain” at risk by “decoupling” from Beijing.

In a belligerent online press conference, Liu said the relationship between the two states was at “a historic political juncture” following recent disputes over Hong Kong and the role of tech firm Huawei in the UK’s 5G network. He warned that London would “pay the price” if it treated China as a hostile state.

“Does it see China as an opportunity and partner or a threat … as a friendly country or a hostile or potentially hostile state?” Liu said.

Additional reporting by POLITICO

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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