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    Mar
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    Look who’s not running in Hong Kong’s elections
    Look who’s not running in Hong Kong’s elections
    POLITICS

    Look who’s not running in Hong Kong’s elections

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    by
    Alan Wong
    Alan Wong
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    To understand the outsized importance of the elections in Hong Kong this Sunday, think outside of the ballot box.

    The elections will return just four of the 70 seats in the city's legislature, but the result will reflect whether voters approve of Hong Kong's crackdown against a political opposition that demands greater democracy.

    "This is not an ordinary vote," said Agnes Chow, a prominent democracy activist. "This is a chance for Hong Kong voters to send a message to the government and to the world that they want democracy."

    Chow was among several candidates that the Beijing-backed local government disqualified in January from standing in the Sunday elections, prompting an international outcry.

    The European Union, among other groups that spoke up against the move, said Chow's disqualification "risks diminishing Hong Kong's international reputation as a free and open society." 

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    Agnes Chow, a co-founder of pro-democracy party Demosisto, was barred from running in legislative elections on Sunday.
    Agnes Chow, a co-founder of pro-democracy party Demosisto, was barred from running in legislative elections on Sunday. Photo: AFP

    Hong Kong is holding the elections because, in 2016, the government sued and successfully removed six pro-democracy lawmakers for not properly taking their oaths of office, creating vacancies.

    On Sunday, voters will have the choice to pick between pro-Beijing candidates and pro-democracy ones.

    The outcome will be seen as a measure of their support, or opposition, to the government. Two other vacancies will be filled in separate elections in the future.

    Hong Kong is a former British colony that was promised a great deal of liberty, including freedom of speech, when China retook control 20 years ago. But the local government's moves against Chow and other democracy advocates in recent years have prompted fears that those values are under threat.

    Who is Agnes Chow?

    Chow, 21, is a co-founder of the political party Demosisto with Joshua Wong, Hong Kong's most prominent activist.

    The president of the party, Nathan Law, was one of the six legislators previously unseated, because they altered the text of the oath of office to express defiance against the Chinese government.

    Chow, a rising star in the pro-democracy movement, had hoped to run in order to fill the vacancy that Law left.

    But in January, the local election authorities took the extraordinary step of invalidating Chow's nomination.

    They argued that she was ineligible to run because her party supported "self-determination" for Hong Kong, a vaguely defined term that Chinese officials believe is tantamount to outright separatism.

    The Demosisto activists were some of the best known leaders of massive demonstrations in 2014 calling for free elections of the city's leader.

    Chow is now endorsing Au Nok-hin, a Democracy Party member nicknamed "Agnes b" (also the name of a French fashion brand) because he only ran because Chow was unable to.

    Au Nok-hin decided to run in the legislative by-election on Sunday after fellow democracy advocate Agnes Chow was disqualified.
    Au Nok-hin decided to run in the legislative by-election on Sunday after fellow democracy advocate Agnes Chow was disqualified. Photo: SCMP

    Who else were disqualified and why?

    Ventus Lau, a 24-year-old community worker, was also barred from running in Sunday's elections, ostensibly over his support for Hong Kong independence.

    Lau said he used to call for an independent Hong Kong, but disavowed that advocacy last year. But election authorities disqualified him anyway, claiming that his change of heart wasn't believable.

    "They cited what I said in a Facebook post back in 2016," he says.

    "They wouldn't believe me, no matter what I said," he said, adding that he may have been disqualified for life.

    Lau insists he had wanted to enter the legislature to fight Beijing's control over the fate of Hong Kong's future.

    "Hong Kong's political future is wholly controlled by Beijing, not by Hong Kong people," he says. "This is injustice."

    Another disqualified politician, James Chan, was also said to be ineligible to run in the elections because of his support for independence. Similarly, the election authorities did not buy his claim that he had changed his mind.

    The Hong Kong government said that a person "cannot possibly" fulfil  his duties as a lawmaker if he "advocates or promotes self-determination or independence by any means."

    On Sunday, a race to watch out for is the one between democracy activist Edward Yiu and pro-Beijing candidates.

    Yiu is the only ousted lawmaker to be standing in the by-election, and he's hoping that a victory sends a clear message that "Hong Kong people's desire for democracy isn't dead."

    ALAN WONG
    ALAN WONG
    Alan is editor at Inkstone. He was previously a digital editor for The New York Times in Hong Kong.

    ALAN WONG
    ALAN WONG
    Alan is editor at Inkstone. He was previously a digital editor for The New York Times in Hong Kong.

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