Prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung has been asked whether he still backs self-determination for the city as authorities vet his candidacy bid for legislative elections.
The review came a day after election officials sent letters to at least nine opposition hopefuls over their political stance. In their replies, four Civic Party members pledged to stop lobbying foreign governments to impose sanctions on the city, while localist Ventus Lau Wing-hong indicated he had abandoned his previous stance calling for Hong Kong independence.
Some observers have expressed concerns the government will disqualify a number of opposition candidates under the newly adopted national security law, which criminalises acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
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The bloc is heading into the September 6 vote riding the momentum of its landslide victory in district council elections last November. The camp earlier this month marshalled more than 610,000 residents to vote in an unofficial primary as it seeks to narrow its field of candidates and win its first majority in the Legislative Council. But some members of the pro-establishment camp are calling for the elections to postponed by at least a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying weighed in on the matter on Sunday, noting the British government had delayed local elections scheduled in May for a year, due the health risks posed by crowds gathering to vote, as well as over fears fewer people would turn out to cast ballots.
Wong, former leader of the now-disbanded group Demosisto, was the sole candidate banned from running in last year’s district elections and now hopes to contest a seat in the Kowloon East constituency.
As part of the candidacy review, Wong was asked in a letter to sign an additional form declaring his allegiance to the city, but he refused. Electoral officer Alice Choi Man-kwan asked him seven questions relating to his political stance and previous statements, with reference from media reports quoting his speeches and distribution of election fliers.
Choi asked whether he still intended to continue to promote “democratic self-determination”, which included Hong Kong independence as an option.
“In any case, your words and deeds about requesting foreign countries to impose sanctions on Hong Kong government officials were actually using foreign forces to exert pressure on Hong Kong and allowing foreign countries to interfere in local affairs,” she said in the letter.
“How could such kind of behaviour fulfil the substantive requirement stated in the nomination form in which you declared that ‘you will uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’?”
Wong was also asked whether he would continue to lobby the United States and other foreign governments to impose sanctions on Hong Kong.
“Do you agree that your purpose of running in the Legislative Council elections is to use the identity, power and convenience of legislators to continue to exert pressure on China and/or Hong Kong with foreign forces?”
The official asked whether he agreed his earlier pledge to “relentlessly oppose” the national security law was equivalent to opposing Hong Kong’s constitutional responsibilities to defend national security.
On his Twitter account, Wong hit out at authorities for including what proposed candidates had said on social media, during interviews with the media and even in opinion pieces written for foreign news outlets.
“When Beijing is paving way for a large-scale election ban of pro-democracy runners, the forthcoming Legco poll in September will not be an election in the ordinary sense,” he said.
But in a statement on Sunday, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said electoral officers would seek advice from the Department of Justice and the bureau might need further information from nominees to determine whether their candidacies were valid.
In replying to the vetting letters, the Civic Party members stated “no” to the question on whether they would continue to call for US or international sanctions.
The four – incumbent lawmakers Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Kwok Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok and district councillor Cheng Tat-hung – noted the comments they had earlier made regarding sanctions came before the national security law was promulgated.
“The international community, out of its own volition and on its own initiative, does what it has been doing to help safeguard its own interests and the common values that we all share,” they wrote in a joint letter. “Given its stakes in Hong Kong, this is understood.”
They also said they only meant to advocate for the exercise of legislators’ constitutional powers when they claimed that if elected, they would veto the budget and other government bills should the administration refuse to meet the five demands of anti-government protesters.
Others quizzed by officers included Ventus Lau, Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam, former Demosisto member Tiffany Yuen Ka-wai and current district councillor Fergus Leung Fong-wai.
Lau said he had abandoned the idea of independence for the city in 2017 and opposed any foreign forces to intervene in China’s domestic affairs.
Yuen said in a post on her Facebook page she had taken down a picture she posted on Instagram earlier this year containing the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times”.
She agreed Hong Kong had a constitutional duty to safeguard national security but she was opposed to the form of the national security law.
Since 2016, at least 10 election hopefuls have been barred from running in local or legislative elections due to their political stance.
Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, an activist of localist group Civic Passion who seeks to contest a seat in the Hong Kong Island constituency, also accepted China’s sovereignty over the city. “I reiterate that I absolutely do not support Hong Kong independence,” he wrote in his letter.
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More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong elections: at least nine opposition camp members seeking legislative seats pressed over security law views and loyalty to city
- Hong Kong elections: opposition hopefuls undecided over pledging allegiance to city, which is requirement of national security law
- Signing declaration of allegiance a non-starter for Joshua Wong, other candidate hopefuls for September’s Hong Kong elections
- National security law: Hong Kong activist Nathan Law says he has warned Pompeo of Beijing ‘meddling’ in city’s coming elections