Advocates are protesting Hong Kong’s disqualification of a legislative candidate on the grounds that she advocated self-determination for the Chinese territory.
Lau Siu-lai (劉小麗), who was stripped of her seat in the Hong Kong legislature last year, was on Friday barred by the Hong Kong government from running in a Nov. 25 election.
Hong Kong authorities are trying to quash pro-independence voices ahead of the election.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and other officials have said that separatist activity will not be tolerated.
The pro-independence Hong Kong National Party last month was banned by authorities who invoked a 1997 national security law for the first time.
Pro-democracy campaigners have said that Beijing is increasingly interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs, in violation of its promise of a “high degree of autonomy” when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Some have called for more autonomy or outright independence for the prosperous business center of 7.5 million people.
Authorities said Lau’s statements in 2016 in support of self-determination were illegal.
Lau dropped that call from her election platform, but the Hong Kong Election Affairs Commission said that her views had not really changed.
The decision “amounts to the political screening of candidates Beijing does not like,” Hong Kong Watch, a human rights group, said in a statement.
“The decision is in breach of the right to stand in free and fair elections,” the group said.
A group of pro-democracy legislators said in a statement that the government is “trying to use fear against dissident voices.”
The Hong Kong government defended Lau’s disqualification as in accordance with the Basic Law, the territory’s de facto constitution.
“Advocating independence” is “inconsistent with the constitutional and legal status” of Hong Kong, a government statement said.
It pointed to Article 1 of the Basic Law, which says that Hong Kong is an “inalienable part” of the People’s Republic of China.
On Friday night, Lau and a dozen pro-democracy advocates protested outside the Hong Kong government headquarters and marched to the office of the territory’s chief executive, the South China Morning Post reported.
Lau, a university sociology teacher, accused the government of using disqualification to make sure pro-establishment candidates win.
“What people will this administration allow into politics? Is it only those who kneel before them?” the Post quoted Lau as saying.
Lau said that election authorities “completely twisted” her views from 2016.
Protests erupted in 2014 after the Chinese Communist Party said it would decide who was allowed to run for Hong Kong’s leadership.
Lau won a Legislative Council seat in 2016, but was barred by a court from taking her seat after she and other pro-independence members altered the wording of their oaths of office.
She was permanently stripped of the seat last year.
Lau is the ninth person since then to be disqualified from running for office.
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