Photographer: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg

Hong Kong Move to Bar Pro-Independence Candidates Jolts Election

  • Second ‘localist’ barred from next month’s legislative race
  • Contenders must agree city is ‘inalienable’ part of China

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.

QuickTake Hong Kong’s Autonomy

The Hong Kong Electoral Affairs Commission on Sunday said it disqualified Yeung ­Ke-cheong, 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 city’s first direct election for 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 Legislative Council vote.

“It will highlight the demand for radical groups,” said Joseph Cheng, a former political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong and a convener of the pro-Occupy Alliance for True Democracy. “This suppression would probably generate even more publicity for the local consciousness, or local identity, cause.”

To read more about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, click here

Last Wednesday, Hong Kong’s High Court declined to immediately review legal challenges to the new electoral rule. Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung 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 election commission said Friday it received 154 nomination forms for candidates vying for 70 seats on the legislature. The elections are Hong Kong’s most high profile since the Occupy demonstrations paralyzed three business districts and drew international attention to the city’s democracy movement.

Chan Ho-tin, convener of the Hong Kong National Party, was disqualified Saturday -- he signed the pledge but refused to answer further queries on whether he’d continue to support independence. Other localist candidates who signed the pledge, such as Hong Kong Indigenous’s Edward Leung, are still awaiting confirmation.

A Chinese University of Hong Kong poll released July 24 found that more than 17 percent supported Hong Kong’s independence after 2047, when the “one country, two systems” framework is due to expire. 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, from the Democratic Progressive Party, wrote on Facebook on Sunday.

The Hong Kong government didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday 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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