Disqualified activist Wong says Beijing has trampled Hong Kong's autonomy
In one of the most significant developments since the national security law was imposed on Hong Kong last month, 12 democracy activists, including key figure Joshua Wong, have been disqualified from legislative elections due to be held in September.
Twelve leading Hong Kong democracy campaigners were disqualified on Thursday from upcoming elections, and four student activists were arrested for social media posts, sparking warnings of a new "wave of terror" under authoritarian China.
China imposed a national security law last month, outlawing subversion, and warning that the legislation was a "sword" hanging over the heads of democracy protesters.
"Beijing shows a total disregard for the will of the Hongkongers, tramples upon the city's...autonomy," tweeted Joshua Wong, one of the territory's highest-profile activists, who was among those disqualified.
Wong described the move as "the biggest-ever crackdown" on the city's pro-democracy movement.
[I was just disqualified from LegCo election, despite being the biggest winner in #Hkprimaries]— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) July 30, 2020
1. Few minutes ago, I was just disqualified from running in the upcoming LegCo election in #Hongkong, even though I got the highest vote share in the primary, w/ 30000+ votes obtained pic.twitter.com/sC3XWbBlsq
The democracy campaigners had been hoping to win a first-ever majority in the partially elected legislature, which is deliberately weighted to return a pro-Beijing chamber.
In a statement Hong Kong's government listed political views that required disqualification – including criticising Beijing's new security law, campaigning to win a legislation-blocking majority and refusing to recognise China's sovereignty.
The Liaison Office, which represents Beijing in Hong Kong, hailed the disqualifications, describing the ousted candidates as "unscrupulous delinquents" who had "crossed the legal bottom line" with their political views.
Chris Patten, Britain's last colonial governor in Hong Kong, accused Beijing of carrying out "an outrageous political purge".
"It is obviously now illegal to believe in democracy...this is the sort of behaviour that you would expect in a police state," Patten added.
The disqualifications came after four students – aged between 16 and 21 – were arrested on Wednesday night for social media posts deemed to breach the new security law.
The four were all former members of Student Localism, a pro-independence group that announced it was disbanding its Hong Kong branch the day before the security law was enacted.
Police said they were arrested on suspicion of organising and inciting secession through comments made on social media.
Student and rights groups condemned the arrests, saying they heralded the kind of political suppression ubiquitous on the Chinese mainland.
White terror and the politics of fear
White terror, politics of fear dispersed in Hong Kong under National Security Law. This is the first case that an individual is arrested on the doorstep under #NSL. It targets activists and quashes freedom of expression of HK people. Please be aware of it. https://t.co/yOA4zPftZp— Nathan Law 羅冠聰 😷 (@nathanlawkc) July 29, 2020
"Hong Kong has fallen into the era of white terror," the Student Unions of Higher Institutions, which represents 13 student unions, said in a statement overnight.
Nathan Law, a democracy campaigner who went into exile after the law was imposed, condemned both the arrests and disqualifications.
"White terror, politics of fear dispersed in Hong Kong," he said, making reference to a Chinese idiom used to describe political persecution.
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe