Prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung has pledged to stop asking the United States or any other foreign country for sanctions on Hong Kong in a bid to save his candidacy for legislative elections.
The co-founder of the now-defunct localist party Demosisto also rejected suggestions that he had invited foreign interference to pressure Hong Kong and Beijing, accusing an electoral officer of trying to cook up charges related to national security and block his candidacy.
Wong said he had only meant to push for the international community to support China in the implementation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which paved the way for Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997.
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Wong was among the city’s activists who spearheaded lobbying to get the Trump administration, and US politicians in 2019, to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump, who recently ended the US’ preferential trade treatment for Hong Kong.
Wong was previously barred from running in the district council elections last November.
Now, having won the opposition camp’s primary election in Kowloon East earlier this month, he is seeking to win a seat in the constituency in the Legislative Council elections, expected to be held on September 6. The nomination period for the polls started on July 18 and will close on Friday.
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai signed up on Monday to seek re-election in Kowloon East. Pro-Beijing lawmakers Starry Lee Wai-king and Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee also signed up to run for another term, while Derek Yuen Mi-chang submitted his nomination forms to run in the Hong Kong Island constituency. Yuen is a member of Hope for Hong Kong, a political group co-founded by Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien Pei-chun.
Wong’s bid, as well as his refusal to sign a declaration form pledging to uphold the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, and pledge allegiance to the city as a special administrative region of China, was strongly criticised in a commentary run by People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, on Friday.
In an online commentary on Monday, People’s Daily said Hong Kong could only have a way out if forces that pushed for “mutual destruction” could be eliminated.
“The Legco election is coming. Hong Kong residents … need to think seriously whether they want to choose the constructive forces that serve the people wholeheartedly, or the forces that push for ‘mutual destruction’ and put their self-interest above everything,” it read.
Writing on his Facebook page on Monday, former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying also questioned whether someone who pushed foreign governments to sanction the city should be allowed to be a lawmaker.
Electoral officer Alice Choi Man-kwan questioned Wong on Sunday about his political views on issues including the sweeping new national security law and Hong Kong independence.
In a lengthy letter to Choi on Monday, Wong gave a brief “no” answer to questions on whether he had plans to continue to ask the US or other countries for sanctions on Hong Kong.
He rejected allegations by Choi that his previous remarks on promoting an “international front” invited foreign interference in Hong Kong, saying she had “clearly wrongly interpreted” his views.
Wong argued: “Neither do I have the power nor the intention to make use of foreign forces to pressure China and Hong Kong. I have been pushing for the international community to support [Beijing] in implementing the basic policy on Hong Kong laid down in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
He also argued that by “international front”, he only meant to say that if he became a legislator, he would join the security panel to discuss issues to push for world peace and join a liaison group to build up contact with foreign parliaments.
He added that he had been committed to reflecting Hong Kong people’s views to international communities, as well as urging foreign governments to treat Hong Kong in accordance with the high degree of autonomy it enjoyed under the Basic Law and “one country two systems” principle.
Wong, a poster boy for Hong Kong’s democracy campaigns, is among the younger and more confrontational activists who outshone old-guard democrats in an unofficial primary election earlier this month.
The Beijing-imposed national security law is aimed at prohibiting secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces in the city.
Quizzed on his pledge to try to veto the government’s budget in future, Wong said it was within the functions and powers of lawmakers as laid down in the Basic Law and he was only advocating the proper exercise of such powers.
At least three opposition figures who hope to stand in the Legco elections said they had also received letters from the authorities asking them to clarify their political views. They included Jeremy Tam Man-ho and Gordon Lam Sui-wa of the Civic Party, and Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit of the League of Social Democrats.
Meanwhile, asked if the Legco polls could be postponed amid the city’s coronavirus crisis, Hong Kong’s No 2 official, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said the government’s bottom line was that the elections must be safe, orderly and fair.
“There will be many people coming out to vote, so the risk may be very high … Authorities have been monitoring the situation every day, and we will make an announcement when the time is appropriate,” he said.
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