The Hong Kong government’s decision to bar pro-independence candidates from next month’s legislative election risks giving the fringe issue more prominence in the campaign.
The Hong Kong Electoral Affairs Commission on Sunday said it disqualified Yeung Ke-cheong (楊繼昌), of the Democratic Progressive Party of Hong Kong, from competing in the Kowloon West district.
Yeung was the second candidate barred after refusing to sign a new pledge to uphold Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which says the former British colony is an “inalienable” part of China.
Calls for Hong Kong’s independence have gained traction since the 2014 Occupy Central protests failed to win concessions for what was supposed to be the territory’s first direct election of a chief executive next year.
The move to exclude candidates comes after several so-called “localists,” who advocate a more confrontational approach to securing greater autonomy from Beijing, announced plans to run in the Sept. 4 Hong Kong Legislative Council vote.
“It will highlight the demand for radical groups,” said Joseph Cheng (鄭宇碩), a former political science professor at City University of Hong Kong and a convener of the pro-protest Alliance for True Democracy. “This suppression would probably generate even more publicity for the local consciousness, or local identity, cause.”
On Wednesday last week, the Hong Kong High Court declined to immediately review legal challenges to the new electoral rule.
Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung (區慶祥) said there was no urgency to consider the applications before the candidate nomination window closed two days later, the South China Morning Post reported.
The commission on Friday said it had received 154 nomination forms for candidates vying for 70 seats in the legislature.
The elections are Hong Kong’s most high profile since the Occupy Central demonstrations paralyzed three business districts and drew international attention to the territory’s democracy movement.
Hong Kong National Party convener Chan Ho Tin (陳浩天) was disqualified on Saturday — he signed the pledge, but refused to answer further queries on whether he would continue to support independence.
Other localist candidates who signed the pledge, such as Hong Kong Indigenous’ Edward Leung (梁天琦), are still awaiting confirmation.
A Chinese University of Hong Kong poll released on July 24 found that more than 17 percent of Hong Kongers supported the territory’s independence after 2047, when the “one country, two systems” framework is scheduled to expire, while more than 57 percent opposed the idea.
At the same time, 81 percent polled said independence was “not possible,” while fewer than 4 percent considered it possible.
“I was disqualified, as I deliberately stated that I would not uphold the Basic Law and thus did not sign the relevant statement,” Yeung wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
The Hong Kong government did not immediately respond to a request for comment yesterday on the decision to disqualify Yeung.
In a statement posted after Chan’s disqualification, the government said a person who advocates or promotes independence “cannot possibly uphold the Basic Law or fulfill his duties as a legislator.”
The Hong Kong National Party said it was “honored” to be the “first party to be barred from a democratic election by the Communist colonial government of Hong Kong.”
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