Hong Kong prohibits 12 from contesting polls

Hong Kong's government said 12 opposition candidates had been disqualified from running for election to the legislature, citing opposition to a new national security law.

Hong Kong’s government said on Thursday 12 opposition candidates had been disqualified from running for election to the legislature, citing opposition to a new national security law.

Disqualified candidates included activists Joshua Wong and Tiffany Yuen from the disbanded political organization Demosisto, as well as incumbent lawmaker Dennis Kwok, three from the Civic Party, and others who won an unofficial “primary” vote held by the opposition camp earlier this month.

The government said advocating self-determination, soliciting intervention by foreign governments, or “expressing an objection in principle” to the enactment of the new security law was behavior that “could not genuinely” uphold the city’s Basic Law.

Candidates are required by law to pledge allegiance to Hong Kong and the Basic Law.

The government said there was “no question of any political censorship, restriction of the freedom of speech or deprivation of the right to stand for elections as alleged by some members of the community.”

Central government’s top representative office in the city, the Hong Kong liaison office, said it supported the disqualifications as the candidates aimed to “paralyze the government” and “subvert state power.”

Other nominees were still being reviewed and there could be more disqualifications, the government said in a statement.

The government is mulling to postpone the September 6 vote, following a spike in the coronavirus pandemic.

The disqualifications came after four people were arrested on Wednesday night on suspicion of inciting secession through social media posts.

The National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force arrested three males and one female in different districts including Yuen Long, Tuen Mun and Sha Tin, Li Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of the National Security Department, said.

The four people, aged between 16 and 21 and claiming to be students, were arrested on suspicion of violating Article 20 and 21 of the national security law, Li said.

Under Article 20, anyone who organizes, plans, commits or participates in any act, whether or not by force or threat of force, with a view to committing secession or undermining national unity is guilty of violating the security law. The maximum penalty for such a violation is life imprisonment.

Article 21 stipulates that one who incites, assists in, abets or provides financial help or property to other people committing an offense under Article 20 are in violation of the law, punishable by imprisonment of five to 10 years.

Intelligence and investigation showed that a group recently announced on social media the establishment of an organization advocating “Hong Kong independence,” and incited others to join them, he added.

Li said only that the group in question had been set up recently and that the posts were made after the law took effect on June 30. “They wanted to unite all the independent groups in Hong Kong for the view to promote the independence of Hong Kong.”

Police said some mobile phones, computers and documents were seized in the operation.

This is the first law enforcement operation launched by the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force in accordance with the national security law.

Police had made a handful of other arrests under the new law, all of them taking part in illegal protests and chanting slogans or waving flags deemed to violate the law.

The national security law in Hong Kong clearly defines offenses endangering national security. The Hong Kong police urged people not to defy the law and emphasized that those who commit relevant crimes online will also be held liable.

In a Facebook post, Initiative Independence Party said four former members of Studentlocalism, a separatist group that was disbanded before the new law took effect, had been arrested on suspicion of violating Articles 20 and 21 of the legislation that include inciting secession. They were denied bail.

Police did not name the suspects but local media and online posts said Tony Chung, a former convener of Studentlocalism, was among those arrested.

Special Reports