The government has barred another candidate from running in the March Legislative Council by-election.
Localist Ventus Lau submitted his nominations for the the New Territories East constituency. The election officer did not ask him any questions about his application, but Lau said he received an email from an election officer at 6:30pm on Wednesday notifying him of the disqualification.
The election officer cited Lau’s past Facebook posts supporting Hong Kong independence in disqualifying him, although – since last month – Lau has said he has given up supporting the notion owing to “political reality.”
“On an objective reading, Mr Lau himself claimed that (i) he no longer supports the independence of Hong Kong, thereby admitting that he had been (at least until the time of this statement) supporting the independence of Hong Kong; and (ii) his present claim that he no longer supports the independence of Hong Kong, that he now starts to pledge full allegiance go the Basic Law is made purely because of political reality. This understanding is further bolstered by his claims that he would do anything just to get into the Legislative Council,” the election officer wrote in her reply.
The officer said: “On an objective reading, although Mr Lau used the words ‘localist,’ he clearly holds himself to succeed or replace” another barred candidate – Edward Leung – as well as disqualified lawmaker Baggio Leung, who the officer claimed advocated Hong Kong independence and reportedly supported Lau’s run.
The election officer said Lau expressed “an apparent reluctance to denounce his hitherto manifested and sustained stance of independence of Hong Kong.” She did not accept that Lau wholeheartedly upholds the Basic Law and pledges allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR – a requirement for standing in the election. He was thus disqualified.
In response, Lau questioned whether candidates who made political remarks that the government did not like would be stripped of their political rights for life, even if their stance changes.
“The second reason is more baffling,” he said. “I only mentioned the historical fact of a vacant [LegCo] seat, and it became a reason to bar me – does this mean the regime will not allow people who speak of historical truths to run?”
Lau is not the first to face disqualification. Johnny Ma, a retired dental surgeon who submitted nominations to run in the Hong Kong Island constituency, was also barred on Wednesday. He did not submit enough valid nominations.
Sha Tin district councillor James Chan also submitted nominations to run in the New Territories East constituency, despite being banned from running in the 2016 election because of his pro-independence stance at the time. An election officer has asked Chan to explain his definition of Hong Kong independence, a notion he has denied supporting in recent months.
As of Wednesday night, Chan has not received a response about his potential run.
Hong Kong Island candidate Agnes Chow was disqualified last Saturday over her party’s advocacy of self-determination, which Beijing views as akin to independence.
An election officer also asked Kowloon West candidate Edward Yiu about his political views. His candidacy was approved on Monday afternoon.
On Wednesday evening, Hong Kong Island candidate Au Nok-hin – seen as a substitute for Agnes Chow – was also allowed to enter the race. A briefing for confirmed candidates will be held on Thursday evening.
Since the 2016 legislative election, over a dozen citizens have been banned from standing, or disqualified from the legislature after being democratically elected. A rally protesting Chow’s disqualification drew a crowd of 2,000 attendees on Sunday.
The March by-elections are taking place to replace four lawmakers who were ousted by courts over their oath-taking. Six were disqualified by the courts in total, but two appeals lodged by Lau Siu-lai and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung have yet to be completed.
Others who submitted nomination forms to run in New Territories East include Gary Fan, Bill Tang, Christine Fong, Estella Chan, Nelson Wong, and Joyce Chiu. Other potential Kowloon West candidates include Vincent Cheng and Jonathan Tsoi. And others who submitted nomination forms to run on Hong Kong Island include Judy Chan, Edward Yum, Au Nok-hin and Ng Dick-hay.