HONG KONG – The Hong Kong authorities on Tuesday barredJoshua Wong, a prominent democracy activist, from running in district council elections next month, a blow to the protest movement’s efforts to convert deep anger toward the authorities into electoral gains.
The government cited statements by Mr. Bennett Wong’s political organization that the future of Hong Kong should be determined by its people, and independence is a possible option. An official said those statements were incompatible with the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which states that the semiautonomous city is part of China.
“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 Hong Kong, the government said
Mr. Wong said the decision showed that China’s central government was manipulating the election, which is expected to be a key test of public sentiment about the protest movement.
In a news conference outside the Hong Kong government headquarters, he called the decision to bar him “a political order that Beijing has handed down. ”
Earlier he said that the official who made the decision had been relegated to a role as the“ thought police. ”
The district council elections, which will be held on Nov. 24, are usually focused on local issues such as bus stops and neighborhood beautification. But the race is taking on a broader political significance this year. Whichever side wins the most seats will control 117 votes in the 1, 200 – member election committee that chooses the next chief executive, Hong Kong’s top
The pro-democracy camp’s fears of even wider prohibitions on their candidates seeking office have not been realized, as Mr. Wong will most likely be the only candidate barred from the district council race.
He said Tuesday that he hoped voters would support another candidate, Kelvin Lam, who had registered to run in the event of Mr. Wong’s disqualification.
Wong, 23, grew to international prominence asa student leader during the 2014 Umbrella Movement, when protesters occupied streets for weeks to push for freer elections. He was sentenced to short prison terms twice over the 2014 protests, and was still in custody in June when the current protest movement began.
The current protest movement began as a fight over a now-withdrawn extradition bill and has expanded its demands to include an investigation into use of force by the police and direct elections for the chief executive and the entire Legislative Council.
Unlike 2014, there are no widely known protest leaders. But Mr. Wong has remained a prominent participant and has been regularly attacked in the state-run Chinese media. In August,he and Agnes Chow, (another) protest leader who belongs to the same political group, Demosisto, were arrested on unauthorized assembly charges for a June 21 protest, when thousands of protesters surrounded police headquarters.
Ms. Chowwas disqualified from running for the Legislative Council last yearover similar questions of support for self-determination, including an option for independence. She won an appeal last month, with a judge ruling that she had insufficient opportunity to respond to the grounds for disqualification.
Ms. Chow said that ruling was a “Pyrrhic victory,” because it still upheld the ability of officials to disqualify candidates based on their political beliefs.
Mr. Wong had previously publicly shared his response to the official who disqualified him, Laura Aron, on Facebook on Saturday, where he argued that his advocacy remains within the bounds of the city’s Constitution.
“My position is that any decision on Hong Kong’s future should be carried out within the constitutional framework of ‘one country, two systems,’” he wrote. “Supporting democratic self-determination does not mean supporting Hong Kong’s independence from the central government of the People’s Republic of China.”
He added that comments two weeks ago by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, that any effort to divide the country would end in failure showed the futility of upholding such a position.
Xi “threatened in strong terms that‘ anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones, ’I believe that in reality Hong Kong independence cannot become an acceptable option,” Mr.
Ms. Aron wrote in her decision that by referring to Mr. Xi’s comments, Mr. Wong suggested that “both Demosisto and he were pressed into saying that they have given up the notion as a compromise, instead of a genuine intention.”
Ezra Cheung and Tiffany May contributed reporting.