Hong Kong activist's election ban seen as political censorship

Catholic justice group says Beijing is eroding the territory's freedom of speech
Hong Kong activist's election ban seen as political censorship

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong speaks to the media outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on Oct. 29 after he was barred from standing in an upcoming council election. (Photo by Anthony Wallace/AFP)

A decision to block Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong from standing in a district council election has been described as political censorship by a Catholic justice group.

The campaigner and secretary-general of the Demosisto party is the only one out of 1,100 candidates to be disqualified from the Nov. 24 poll because of his political stance. Returning officer Laura Liang Aron ruled he had not changed his former position on independence for the Chinese-ruled territory.

The decision not only sets a bad example of political censorship but also worsens the already shrinking freedom of speech in Hong Kong, Jackie Hung, project officer of the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong Diocese, told ucanews on Oct. 30.

“It’s very clear that banning Joshua Wong from the district council election is a political gesture,” said Hung, adding that the government decision shows the public that Hong Kong people do not enjoy the right to elect and to be elected.

Established in 2016, Demosisto is a pro-democracy organization advocating self-determination for Hong Kong.

Wong, 23, had been repeatedly requested by the electoral officer to explain his political views on democratic self-determination since he submitted his nomination on Oct 4.

The right to vote and the right to stand for election as well as universal suffrage are provisions promised in the Basic Law, which was set up when the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

“Our rights now are based only on the conditions and rules set by the government, not the law,” said Hung, adding that people are not allowed even to express or share their views on the possibility of independence, even just for the sake of discussion.

The letter from the election officer to Wong states that the activist still holds the idea of a non-binding referendum on self-determination, with independence as one option.

It states that the option of independence in such a referendum is “incompatible with the Basic Law and the status of Hong Kong as a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China.”

Wong told media on Oct. 29 after being informed of his “invalid” nomination that It proves how Beijing is manipulating the election with political censorship and screening.

“I was targeted by the central government. They treated me as the leader of Hong Kong independence, so the election officer had no choice but to ban me. It’s called ‘Execute one as a warning to a hundred’,” he said.

The activist fought against Beijing’s interference in the education system in 2012 before joining the Umbrella Movement of 2014 seeking genuine democracy.

Pro-democracy groups are calling on all eligible voters, especially youngsters, to participate in the upcoming election to exercise their civil rights on top of the ongoing protests as a means to achieve democratic reform.

Beijing authorities and state-owned media have accused Wong of being a pro-independence radical taking financial aid from the United States.

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