Over 2,000 Hongkongers gathered outside government headquarters on Sunday evening to protest the disqualification of pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow from the upcoming legislative by-elections.
Chow had submitted an application to run for the Hong Kong Island seat vacated by her ousted Demosisto party colleague Nathan Law, but her candidacy was rejected on Saturday as an electoral officer claimed her party’s views were inconsistent with the Basic Law.
Pro-Beijing newspapers have also cited rumours that Kowloon West pro-democracy candidate Edward Yiu – the former architectural constituency lawmaker similarly ousted due to the way he took his oath of office – will also be blocked from running in March. On Friday, Yiu received a list of queries from the electoral officer asking whether he truly upheld the Basic Law.
Yiu and Chow originally intended the protest at Civic Square, Admiralty to be a rally for their respective election platforms. Both had hoped to promote their campaigns as “Plan A,” but other pro-democracy election candidates may now take their places on the ballot following a primaries process.
Demonstrators on Sunday instead voiced opposition to Chow’s disqualification and called for new Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng to step down, as electoral officers receive legal advice from her Department of Justice.
“Agnes Chow is the 13th person to be disqualified because of their political stance,” Nathan Law told the demonstrators.
Before six legislators were ousted over their oaths, electoral officers had also barred several pro-independence candidates from running in the September 2016 legislative elections.
“In this day and age, I don’t know how we can continue discussing political reform with the Hong Kong government,” added incumbent pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan.
“Even if all seats in the Legislative Council are elected by direct universal suffrage, and even they allow a civic nomination mechanism for [candidates in] the Chief Executive election… you will still be disqualified when you apply to run.”
Chow, who arrived later to the rally owing to illness, said that even members of the pro-establishment camp could be disqualified in the future if the government’s power to oust candidates became unlimited.
— Kris Cheng (@krislc) January 28, 2018
Localist Yau Wai-ching – who was ousted from the legislature in November 2016 for her oath – told HKFP that the government wanted to disqualify any member of the opposition who stood a chance of winning in elections.
“I believe Agnes Chow did have the opportunity,” she said. “All other reasons – political views, affiliations – are all excuses.”
“The government has been violating Article 26 of the Basic Law,” added Yau. Article 26 states Hong Kong permanent residents have the right to vote and the right to stand for election in accordance with law.
She said there were no clear answers as to what activists should do if they cannot run in elections anymore, but they should focus on working with local communities to increase their awareness of issues.
Former Democratic Party member Au Nok-hin submitted an application to run for the Hong Kong Island seat as Chow’s “Plan B” after she was disqualified on Saturday.
Democratic Party district councillor Ramon Yuen says he will submit an application in Kowloon West if Yiu’s candidacy is not confirmed by Monday.