In the latest Beijing-backed crackdown on the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and its leaders, many of whom have increasingly faced arrest and rumors about lengthy prison terms, Joshua Wong, the student activist who emerged as a leader with international profile back in 2014, has been barred from running for Hong Kong's District Council.
In a Tuesday letter, Wong was informed that his candidacy in the District Council elections had been declared invalid in accordance with the Basic Law, Hong Kong's constitution. In a separate statement, which didn’t name Wong, officials said support for Hong Kong self-determination was inconsistent with the law.
This is how Joshua Wong is disqualified to be elected today, 29th, Oct, 2019.— Pete Lau (@PeteLau1) October 29, 2019
The Hong Kong government just don't care the world seeing how brutal they stripe the right of being elected from a ordinary citizen. pic.twitter.com/S9sZNzWSez
In a response, Wong blamed the Hong Kong government for kowtowing to Beijing. He slammed the "politically driven" decision, another example of the government curbing the liberties of every-day Hong Kongers, according to SCMP.
“The ban is clearly political driven,” he said. “The so-called reason is judging subjectively on my intention to uphold the Basic Law. But everyone knows the true reason is my identity – Joshua Wong is a crime in their mind."
“I have never actively advocated independence as an option, but she twisted and wrongly interpreted my remark,” he said, adding that Beijing had clearly exerted great pressure on Hong Kong officials, demonstrated by the original returning officer taking sick leave and its mouthpiece People’s Daily calling him an “independence leader”.
Wong believed his advocacy of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in the United States was probably the core reason of the ban in Beijing’s mind.
“But they have to pay the price in the international community...my disqualification will only trigger more people to take to the streets and vote in the coming elections,” he said.
Wong also said he would consider challenging the decision after November’s district council elections.
“Under the Basic Law, the allegiance requirement does not mention district council in the legislation,” Wong said. “So how much power or legal basis does a returning officer of the district council – which is a consultative body – have to carry out political vetting? This is critical.”
According to WSJ, this year, the district council seats up for election make up almost all of the city's 18 local councils. Wong is part of a wave of pro-democracy candidates who are challenging establishment members, hoping the anti-government atmosphere will help them win big gains.
District council members effectively act as liaisons between the community and the legislature. They act as representatives on issues of government programs and public facilities. But they don't make laws, or have any kind of veto power. The HK legislature isn't due to hold an election until next year.
District councilors also hold close to 10% of the seats on the 1,200-member election committee that chooses Hong Kong’s leader.
Wong has been intensely persecuted since emerging as the leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests. Like the contemporary pro-democracy fever, the 2014 movement also began as something else: Wong and several of his classmates took to the streets to hand out flyers objecting to new classes in Hong Kong's public schools intended to indoctrinate students about the Communist Party. That later merged with the backlash to Beijing's election tampering, and Wong, still in high school at the time, found himself the leader of a student army of protesters.
He has been refused passage in several Asian countries, including Malaysia, as local governments were wary of angering Beijing. He has been repeatedly arrested - recently by a gang of plainclothes-wearing police, who grabbed him and hurried him into an unmarked police van.
Interestingly, not all of the pro-democracy activists were banned from the race. Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, a pro-democracy lawmaker previously barred from running in a village representative election due to his support for "separatism" (something that Wong is also now being accused of) was given the all-clear to run in the elections.