Oct. 29 (UPI) — Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong said Tuesday that he has been disqualified from running in the upcoming District Council elections due to his political beliefs.
“I become the only candidate banned from running in November’s District Council Election,” Wong said in a tweet that accompanied the notice of decision on his nomination. “… It proved how Beijing manipulated the election with political [censorship] and screening.”
He is so far the only candidate to be disqualified due to their political beliefs.
The decision was made by Laura Aron, district officer of the South Horizons West Constituency of the Southern District Council for which Wong had applied in early October to be a candidate for in the Nov. 24 election.
In a press release Tuesday, the Hong Kong government said it supports Aron’s decision, saying Wong’s candidacy does not comply with local electoral laws due to his advocacy of “self-determination.”
“The candidate cannot possibly comply with the requirements of the relevant electoral laws, since advocating or promoting ‘self-determination’ is contrary to the content of the declaration that the law requires a candidate to make to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the HKSAR,” the government said, referring to the semi-autonomous region by the initials of its officials name, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The government said advocating for self-determination or to support Hong Kong’s independence from China “is inconsistent with the constitutional and legal status of the HKSAR.”
Wong condemned the decision, saying the returning officer “repeatedly twisted and misunderstood” political views as he never advocated for self-determination.
“The only reason for my disqualification is that my name is Joshua Wong,” he said.
He has since told his supporters to vote for Kelvin Lam instead and he will be campaigning for him from now on.
The news was met with international condemnation, including from U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who called Wong’s disqualification a “blow against rule of law” in Hong Kong and against the One Country, Two Systems government model it has functioned under since it was returned to China’s sovereignty in 1997.
“The people of Hong Kong should be able to choose their elected officials,” Pelosi said on Twitter.
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee called it “overreach” by the Chinese government and international nongovernmental organization Human Rights International demanded the Hong Kong Electoral Affairs Commission to immediately reverse its decision, stating that disqualifying a candidate on their “peaceful political views” is in violation of fundamental rights and freedoms.
“Disqualifying Joshua Wong from running for office is just the latest example of the Hong Kong government’s increasingly anti-democratic tactics,” said HRW’s China director, Sophie Richardson, in a statement. “The government’s rigging of the election process reinforces for many people that the only way to be heard is by protesting on the streets.”
Richardson said by disqualifying Wong, the Chinese government only further validates the claims of Hong Kong protesters.
“The government needs to respect Hong Kong people’s promised rights to universal suffrage, not further restrict them,” Richardson said.
Wong, 23, came to prominence as a teenager during the 2014 Umbrella Movement that rocked the region in demand for Hong Kong citizens to have the right to choose their political leaders.
He has also been a prominent figure during the ongoing pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong that began in early summer.