Thousands of people gathered outside the government headquarters late Sunday to stage a protest after authorities barred a pro-democracy activist from the upcoming Legislative Council by-elections.
Chanting slogans, the demonstrators denounced a decision by the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) to disqualify Agnes Chow Ting, 21, a prominent member of the Demosistō party, from the March contest.
The EAC is said to have informed Chow that her candidacy for the Hong Kong Island constituency has been rejected because her party supports self-determination for Hong Kong.
Expressing outrage at the move, protesters gathered at the east wing forecourt of the central government offices, an area also known as “Civic Square”, in a rally dubbed “Hongkongers want Plan A”.
Police estimated the crowd at 2,000 at the peak in the event that was organized by the pan-democratic camp, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Chow, a standing committee member of Demosistō, said she had received a notice from Anne Teng Yu-yan, returning officer of the Hong Kong Island constituency, that her nomination as a candidate in the by-election was invalid.
Backing Teng’s decision, the government said in a statement issued on Saturday that the government “agrees to and supports the decision by the Returning Officer.”
“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 the HKSAR,” the statement said.
Facing questions as to why Chow was being discriminated against, given that Demosistō chairman Nathan Law Kwun-chung was not disqualified to run in the Legco election in September 2016, Teng said each case of nomination must be handled independently, and the situation of the nomination period must also be taken into consideration.
As far as Chow’s case is concerned, Teng said she took into consideration the developments after the 2016 Legco election, which included an interpretation by the National people’s Congress Standing Committee of Article 104 of the Basic Law.
Law was stripped of his Legco seat in July 2017 for improper oath-taking based on the interpretation.
Chow, who was the Plan A choice for the pan-democratic camp for the Hong Kong Island seat, described the decision against her as “political liquidation of a whole generation” and called it tantamount to announcing that Hongkongers can from now on only vote for those who are approved by the regime.
At the rally, Demosistō secretary-general Joshua Wong Chi-fung, said he may never be a Legco member but he will be a dissident as long as he lives.
He added that the party will tell the world how the Chinese Communist Party is turning Hong Kong into a society ruled by man, rather than law.
Law called on the protesters to gather outside the Lai Chi Kok Community Hall on Thursday, when a briefing session for by-election candidates is scheduled to be held, to express their discontent with the government’s perceived attempt to monopolize elections.
A total of 17 professional groups, including Progressive Lawyers Group and Archi Vision, said in a joint statement on Saturday that Chow’s disqualification was totally against the rights given to Hongkongers by the Basic Law to vote and to stand for election.
They urged the government to retract Teng’s decision.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told media on Saturday, after she returned from a trip to Europe, that advocacy of self-determination, independence or local autonomy are inconsistent with the requirements of the Basic Law. She insisted Teng only made a factual statement.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung reiterated on Sunday that returning officers make their decisions according to law.
If anyone has an issue with a particular decision, the person can seek legal recourse, he said.
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