When Hong Kong’s citizens will stand for the parliamentary election remains uncertain: Although the poll is still scheduled for September 6, the local government wants to postpone the election by one year due to the increasing virus infections, according to media reports. But apart from the time, it is already clear: The seven and a half million Hong Kongers will have only a limited choice anyway.
At least twelve leading opposition politicians, including above all the emerging generation, were excluded from their candidacy on Thursday. The local government did not give specific names and reasons, but in a written statement it provided information on the criteria that led to the disqualification. This includes, for example, “a fundamental rejection of the National Security Law”, which the Chinese government imposed on the Hong Kong government at the beginning of the month of Hong Kong without democratic approval from parliament. In addition, one should not only “maintain” Hong Kong’s basic law, but also “support and promote” it.
The international candidate Joshua Wong, who had received the greatest support from all the nominees in the unofficial primaries at the beginning of the month, was among the candidate candidates. The 23-year-old describes the latest measure as the biggest blow to the city’s elections so far: “Beijing shows complete disregard for the will of the Hong Kong people”. In 2016, the authorities had already disqualified six nominees on the pretext of illegality. But the size of twelve candidates in a single day is new. In addition, the local government threatens: “We do not rule out the possibility of declaring further nominations also invalid.”
Unsurprisingly, there was also criticism from abroad: “It is not a democracy if the government decides which candidates from the opposition will be admitted,” wrote German Green Party politician Reinhard Bütikofer, chairman of the China delegation to the European Parliament, on twitter. On Tuesday, the European Union imposed sanctions on China under the National Security Law. Beijing, however, perceives these as largely “symbolic”, as the party newspaper “Global Times” titled.
On Wednesday, police officers also arrested four activists aged 16 to 21 for “secessionist activities” under the new security law – a criminal offense that includes up to ten years in prison. The Hong Kong people are accused of having spoken out in favor of contributions to the so-called social media for the independence of Hong Kong.
The detainees are members of Studentlocalism; a group founded by school-age youth in 2016. They had dissolved their association shortly before the national security law was introduced and moved it abroad. Human rights organizations are outraged: “According to the police, all of the detainees were targeted because they expressed their views peacefully,” said Nicholas Bequelin of Amnesty International.