Twelve pro-democracy candidates running for the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) election were disqualified on July 30 by returning officers who are responsible for reviewing basic information of candidates running for public positions.
The political spectrum of those 12 candidates ranges from localists like Joshua Wong and Lester Shum, who advocate for political autonomy, to moderate pro-democracy figures like Alvin Yeung and Kenneth Leung from the Civil Party that advocates for human rights and rule of law.
The Hong Kong government said in a press statement that the returning officers’ disqualification decision has its full support. It said candidates who advocate self-determination, support foreign intervention, oppose in principle the enactment of the national security in Hong Kong “could not genuinely” uphold the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s de facto mini-constitution.
According to article 104 of that legal document, members of the Legislative Council must swear to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Starting from 2016, the Hong Kong government has used this article to disqualify elected lawmakers for their “disingenuous” oath-taking. Since then, returning officers have been empowered to screen the candidates by reviewing their public speech.
The government stressed that it could not “rule out the possibility that more nominations would be invalidated” in the next few days.
Beijing’s Liaison Office, which represents the government of the People’s Republic of China in the special administrative region of Hong Kong, issued a similar statement but added that those who stated they would indiscriminately veto the government’s budget and bills upon election would also fall in the disqualification row.
Two weeks ago, more than 610,000 Hongkongers participated in the primary election of the pro-democracy camp to decide on a list of 30 candidates running for the upcoming LegCo elections. The objective is to win a majority of seats in the legislative body.
Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong under the British colonial rule, described the disqualification as “an outrageous political purge”.
The disqualification decision, in particular the disqualification of the political moderates of the Civic Party, indicates that Beijing will no longer tolerate any political opposition voices within the LegCo.
Currently, four of the Civic Party candidates have received a disqualification notice. Alan Leong, Chair of the Party anticipated that all six of his party candidates would be disqualified, as the letters of the returning officers were almost exactly the same and hence could not be the outcome of an independent review process.