Sun, Jan 28, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Hong Kong forbids democracy activist from running in poll


Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow yesterday holds a document from the government banning her from a Hong Kong Legislative Council by-election.

Photo: AFP

One of Hong Kong’s best-known democracy activists was yesterday banned from running in upcoming elections, the latest blow to freedoms in the territory as Beijing tightens its grip.

Agnes Chow (周庭), 21, a former leader of the 2014 “Umbrella movement” protests that called for political reform, had her nomination rejected because she supports self-determination for the semi-autonomous territory, the government said.

The move came as fears grow that political debate is being shut down under pressure from an assertive Beijing, with the jailing of democracy activists fueling concern.

The emergence of campaigners calling for independence for Hong Kong since the failure of the “Umbrella movement” to win reform has incensed Beijing, and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has made it clear that he will not tolerate any challenge to Chinese sovereignty.

The pro-Beijing Hong Kong government has previously barred independence activists from standing for office, but Chow’s ban is the first against a more moderate campaigner.

She had been hoping to stand in by-elections in March, which were triggered by the disqualification from the Hong Kong Legislative Council of six lawmakers who protested while taking their oaths of office in 2016.

“Self-determination or changing the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region [HKSAR] system by referendum, which includes the choice of independence, is inconsistent with the constitutional and legal status of [the] HKSAR,” the government said.

It added that someone who “advocates or promotes” self-determination or independence cannot uphold the Basic Law, the territory’s mini-constitution.

Chow is a member of Demosisto, a political party cofounded by leading democracy campaigner Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), who is currently on bail after being jailed for his role in the 2014 rallies.

Demosisto does not campaign for independence, but advocates self-determination and a referendum for Hong Kong people to decide how they want to be governed.

The ban on Chow has wide-scale implications for other similar activists who want to stand for office, including Wong.

Demosisto said it condemned what it called a political decision and a “purge” by the Chinese Communist Party.

“The government’s motivation is to eliminate the hopes of an entire generation of young people,” it said in a statement.

Chow said that Demosisto as a party does not advocate independence.

“But we believe Hong Kong people have the right to decide on our future and our lifestyle,” she told reporters.

The ban is also another setback for the pan-democratic camp, which is trying to win back the six seats it lost due to the disqualifications.

Losing those seats robbed it of the one-third minority vote needed to block important bills in the pro-Beijing legislature.

Rights group Human Rights Watch accused Beijing and Hong Kong authorities of “redoubling” efforts to undermine the already limited electoral rights of citizens.

“This is another act in Beijing’s play to chip away Hong Kong’s autonomy,” group senior researcher on China Maya Wang (王松蓮) said.

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