All the excluded were hostile to new security law. For the Hong Kong government, there is no "political censorship". For Beijing, the excluded are "unscrupulous delinquents ". Chris Patten calls the action "An outrageous political purge. [. . .] In Hong Kong, it is obviously now illegal to believe in democracy”.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Beijing is behind the disqualification of 12 pro-democracy figures who were planning to run in the upcoming Legislative Council (LegCo) elections, said Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a think tank that collaborates with mainland China.
Speaking on Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), Lau explained that Beijing had to intervene because “there’s collusion between external [and] internal hostile voices”.
This situation prompted “Beijing into doing something to prevent the hostile forces from taking over LegCo and to make sure that national security is safeguarded," Lau added.
Lau Siu-kai’s patriotic interpretation clashes however with the opinion of many others who view the exclusion as an act of censorship and repression.
News of the disqualification of the 12 candidates for the LegCo broke around 4 pm yesterday.
Some of the excluded are well known social activists and critics of the security law, like Joshua Wong, former leader of Demosisto (a dissolved pro-independence party); Civic Party members like Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Alvin Yeung; and Tsuen Wan district councillor Lester Shum. Other are Tat Cheng (Civic Party), localist Ventus Lau, Tiffany Yuen (ex Demosisto), Kenneth Leung, Cheng Kam-mun, former journalist Gwyneth Ho, and district councillor Fergus Leung.
In a press release issued yesterday, the government pointed out that it is precisely the hostility of these candidates to the security law that made them ineligible.
“There is no question of any political censorship, restriction of the freedom of speech or deprivation of the right to stand for elections,” the statement said.
The security law imposed by Beijing has been criticised and rejected by a broad section of Hong Kong society. It criminalises acts of "secession, subversion, terrorism, collaboration with foreign forces".
Among the excluded, perhaps only a few former Demosisto members could be accused of being in favour of Hong Kong independence or involved in “collusion with foreign forces” since they sought US help to push the government to engage protesters in dialogue.
For the others there is only a strong hostility to the security law, which is enough for them to be accused of "terrorism".
The Beijing Liaison Office with Hong Kong and Macau says that those disqualified have "crossed the legal bottom line".
"How could Hong Kong's legislative body . . . allow these unscrupulous delinquents seeking to destroy 'One Country, Two Systems' and Hong Kong's prosperity into its chamber," it said in a statement.
Internationally, many countries, first of all the United Kingdom and the United States, have condemned Beijing's move on Hong Kong.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab pointed out that the removal of 12 candidates undermines the integrity of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle, which China pledged to uphold in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984.
For his part, Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last British governor, called Beijing’s action "an outrageous political purge of Hong Kong’s democrats. [. . .] It is obviously now illegal to believe in democracy”.