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Joshua Wong among multiple Hong Kong pro-democracy candidates disqualified from upcoming election – CNN

Hong Kong (CNN)Multiple Hong Kong pro-democracy candidates have been barred from standing in upcoming legislative elections, amid reports the government may postpone the polls until next year over the coronavirus.

Twelve pro-democracy candidates were formally disqualified Thursday, including prominent Hong Kong activist and former leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement Joshua Wong. Others affected include a number of candidates from more traditional pro-democracy parties, as well as several young activists who cut their political teeth in last year’s pro-democracy protest movement.
On Twitter, Wong accused the Chinese government of showing a “total disregard for the will of (Hong Kongers)” and trampling on “the city’s last pillar of vanishing autonomy.”
In a statement, the Hong Kong government said it supported the decisions by returning officers to “invalidate 12 nominees for this year’s Legislative Council (LegCo) General Election.”
It said the candidates had been barred on the grounds that they would not uphold the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s de facto constitution, recently expanded with a new security law imposed on the city by Beijing, which criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces.
“Returning Officers are still reviewing the validity of other nominations according to the laws,” government added. “We do not rule out the possibility that more nominations would be invalidated.”

Election in doubt

Several letters posted online by disqualified candidates from returning officers informing them of their decision cited previous opposition to the security law as a reason for the move.
“The excuse they use is that I describe (the security law) as a draconian law, which shows that I do not support this sweeping law,” Wong said.
Another disqualified candidate, Dennis Kwok, was reportedly barred because of his having expressed an intention to use his position as a legislator “in such a way as to force the Government to accede to certain demands,” effectively the job of an opposition lawmaker in most democratic countries.
The disqualifications come amid widespread reports that the government is preparing to postpone the elections, due to take place on September 6, to next year, due to an ongoing rise in coronavirus cases in the city.
It is not clear how the disqualifications will affect this, or whether there will be another round of nominations next year if the polls are postponed.
In the statement, the Hong Kong government said it “respects and safeguards the lawful rights of Hong Kong people, including the right to vote and the right to stand for elections.”

Students arrested

The move to ban candidates from September’s election comes a day after Hong Kong police arrested several student activists for allegedly committing the new crime of secession under the security law.
Police said those arrested were three males and one female, aged between 16 and 21.
Though the police declined to name the group or those arrested, the political group Studentlocalism said on Facebook that its members were among those apprehended, naming one as former leader Tony Chung.
Studentlocalism was one of several political groups in Hong Kong which announced it was ending operations in the city due to the new security law, though it did not delete its social media pages and said activists overseas would continue their work.
In a press conference late Wednesday, police spokesman Lee Kwai-wah said the organization had “posted about the establishment of a new party that advocates Hong Kong independence on social media.”
“We have to enforce the laws even if the crimes are committed on the internet. Don’t think you can escape from the responsibility in cyberspace and commit crimes,” Lee added.

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Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong says Beijing’s bill is about boosting Communist regime, not national security – CNBC

Prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong called Beijing’s proposed national security legislation “more evil” than the scrapped extradition bill that triggered mass protests in Hong Kong last year.

We all know that the national security legislation is not about the security of China, it’s just about enhancing, embracing the Communist regime in China,” Wong, secretary general of pro-democracy group Demosisto, told CNBC.

There is also fear the national security laws could lead to Chinese intelligence agencies setting up bases in Hong Kong and enforcing law directly.

Unlike other laws in the territory, the bill introduced last week allows Beijing to bypass Hong Kong’s legislature before implementation, reigniting concerns about deteriorating freedoms in the city. The motion to draft the law is expected to be passed on Thursday when China’s annual parliamentary session ends. It would be implemented in months, after details are drafted and passed by Beijing.

Wong slammed that process, saying “This proposed law is a stepping stone for the future interference of eroding the political and economic freedom in Hong Kong.”

He argued that the law could criminalize free speech, including criticism of chief executive Carrie Lam and calls for her to step down. Wong — who has taken his cause overseas, including to the U.S., for support — said that such activities may be considered subversion in the future under the national security law.

Wong said that the law could be arbitrarily enforced and that the prosecution of those who breach it may not take place in Hong Kong.

“In the future, I might not be jailed in Hong Kong anymore, I might be jailed in China, in Beijing and that is the tremendous threat we might need to face,” said Wong.

Time is running out in Hong Kong.

Joshua Wong

secretary general of Demosisto

This will affect the faith and credibility that has been placed in Hong Kong’s business environment, he said.

Last week, the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong expressed concerns about the law. It said the freedoms that distinguish the city from mainland China, like its independent judiciary and the freedom of assembly, have been key to Hong Kong’s position as a global financial center.

There is a “fear factor developing in the business community,” AmCham said in a statement. The business group said definition and details of the law are necessary to alleviate that feeling.

“A Beijing inspired national security law leaves open an interpretation of how such an act will be enforced. How will it affect the rule of law? Will it mean limiting online, press and personal freedoms? People may also ask whether Beijing’s concern over foreign interference adds an element of risk to foreigners living here,” AmCham President Tara Joseph said in a statement.

‘One country, one system’

Over the weekend, the introduction of the national security law spurred thousands to protest in the streets, despite social distancing guidelines that remain in place to contain the coronavirus outbreak. More protests are taking place on Wednesday against the planned national security law and a bill criminalizing disrespect of China’s national anthem.

“Time is running out in Hong Kong … (that is almost turning from) ‘one country, two systems’ to ‘one country, one system’ and (this) seems to be the beginning of the end,” said Wong, referring to the principle which China uses to govern Hong Kong.

He said that the breaches the premise of the Sino-British Joint declaration, a bilateral agreement that was registered at the United Nations. The treaty was signed to guarantee Hong Kong’s autonomy for 50 years after the former British colony’s sovereignty was transferred to China.

It also calls into question the status of Hong Kong as a free port and economy for the free flow of capital, Wong argued.

On Tuesday, an official to the National People’s Congress told CNBC that Beijing proposed the national security law as  Hong Kong lawmakers have not been able to, despite their obligation under Article 23 of the city’s mini-constitution.

Hong Kong leader Lam said in a statement Friday that the new law would only target acts of secession, subverting state power and organizing and carrying out terrorist activities, as well interference by foreign or external forces.

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