HONG KONG • Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong filed a court challenge in Hong Kong yesterday against his disqualification from district polls, a move which may have implications for this year’s removals of opposition candidates for the city’s legislature.
Wong, 23, was the only candidate in district council elections last year to have been disqualified, with the authorities saying his candidacy contravened electoral laws that bar “advocating or promoting self-determination”.
Wong, whom China calls a “black hand” of foreign forces, said at the time that he supported the idea of a non-binding referendum for people to have a say over Hong Kong’s future status within China. But he is against independence which is anathema for Beijing.
“The reason I apply for judicial review is to make clear that the power of the returning officer keeps enlarging, they are just (pursuing a) political mission,” said Wong, referring to officials who vet candidates.
Wong, who led protests as a teenager in 2012 and 2014, was also among 12 opposition candidates recently disqualified from running in elections for seats in the city’s legislature.
Those polls have been postponed by a year to September next year, with the government citing coronavirus risks.
Grounds for disqualification included perceived subversive intentions, “opposition in principle” to a new national security law imposed by Beijing, and intentions to form a majority that could block government legislation.
If Wong’s court challenge yesterday were accepted, it could pave the way for legal challenges to the latest round of disqualifications.
The decision to postpone the elections has been criticised by the West as an attempt to weaken the pro-democracy opposition in the Chinese-ruled, semi-autonomous city. But Hong Kong authorities said the only consideration was public health.
Pro-democracy candidates won more than 80 per cent of the district council seats in November last year and hoped to win an unprecedented majority in the legislature, riding on momentum built on the protests last year and fuelled by resentment over the new security law.
Wong faces multiple charges for taking part in unlawful assemblies related to protests last year and on June 4 this year at a vigil commemorating China’s 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Tiananmen Square.
Beijing imposed the new security legislation on June 30 in response to last year’s protests.
Those convicted under the new law face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.