Joshua Wong—the iconic activist from the Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement and secretary-general of pro-democracy party Demosistō—is being barred from running in the district council elections next month.
News of the ban came an hour after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s press conference, where she expressed her determination to continue engaging the police force to end the “violence” in Hong Kong.
On Twitter, Wong wrote about the ban against him: “It proved how Beijing manipulate the election with political censorship and screening.”
On Oct. 4, Wong filed his application to run in the South Horizons West Constituency, disclosing that he would run as a member of the “pro-democracy camp” and not as a member of Demosistō, according to Hong Kong Free Press.
Prior to the ban, Wong said he had been questioned twice through letters from the Southern District’s election officers of Hong Kong’s Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) to clarify his political stance, particularly whether he advocated “self-determination.”
According to local broadcaster RTHK, Wong replied to election officers saying that he supported the notion of Hong Kongers having “self-determination” after 2047 in accordance with the “one country, two systems” agreement.
According to Hong Kong Free Press, the officer originally responsible for Wong’s district, Dorothy Ma, took last-minute sick leave the day of the decision was due.
“Ma’s disappearance reflects the fact that returning officers are under extreme political pressure from a particular side. The reasonable guess is Beijing and Hong Kong’s government have ordered them to disqualify me,” he told HKFP.
Wong was disqualified by a replacement officer from the district of Kowloon, Laura Liang Aron.
Several pro-democracy candidates in the November election were asked about their stances on self-determination and Hong Kong independence but none have been banned.
In 2018, Agnes Chow, also a member of Demosistō advocating for Hongkongers’ self-determination, was banned from running in the Legislative Council by-election, according to Hong Kong Free Press. However, the ban against Chow was overturned by a Hong Kong court in September for breaching “the principle of natural justice or procedural fairness.”
Hong Kong government had issued a statement at 11 a.m. local time explaining the ban, although it had not identified Wong by name.
“‘Self-determination’ or changing the HKSAR system by supporting the independence of Hong Kong as an option for self-determination is inconsistent with the constitutional and legal status of the HKSAR as stipulated in the Basic Law,” the statement read.
Lo Kin-hei, vice chairman of the Democracy Party and a Southern District councilor, took to Twitter to lambast the Hong Kong government’s ban.
“No need to really read the ‘reasons’ given by the govt for disqualifying a candidate in details [sic], it is just wrong to vet candidates according to their political beliefs,” Lo wrote.
Chow also took to Twitter, calling the ban against Wong “obvious political screening and repression.”
Wong held a press conference in the afternoon on Oct. 29 saying that he believes the government’s ban against him serves as a warning to others.
However, Wong added that the government’s ban against him will likely only inspire more Hongkongers to join the protests.
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai warned that the “political screening” could lead to even more street protests, RTHK reported.
Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung added, “This is a blatant demonstration that the government really doesn’t care about what Hong Kong people want.
“The Hong Kong government is basically telling the rest of the world that we don’t care about what you think of us,” he told RTHK.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include that the officer responsible for Wong’s ruling, Dorothy Ma, took last-minute sick leave the day of the ban.