Hong Kong elections should go ahead as soon as possible and blacklisted candidates must be allowed to run for office.
In a joint statement, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom turned the screw on China’s Special Administrative Region after the polls were put back until next year.
“We call on the Hong Kong government to reinstate the eligibility of disqualified candidates. We urge the Hong Kong government to hold the elections as soon as possible,” UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said in a joint statement on Sunday as reported by the Reuters news agency.
President Xi Jinping’s government has been squeezing the life out of Hong Kong as the ruling Communist Party “tramples” over the remains of the city’s pro-democracy movement.
Up to 12 candidates have been banned from taking part in next year’s legislative elections, which were conveniently rescheduled for 2021 because of a new Cover-19 outbreak. They were due to take place next month.
High-profile figures include Joshua Wong, the former leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, on the grounds that they would not uphold the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
“Returning Officers are still reviewing the validity of other nominations according to the laws. We do not rule out the possibility more nominations would be invalidated.”Hong Kong Government statement
“Clearly, #Beijing shows a total disregard for the will of the #Hongkongers, tramples upon the city’s last pillar of vanishing autonomy and attempts to keep #HK’s legislature under its firm grip,” Wong tweeted.
In response, the Hong Kong government with the backing of Beijing issued a statement saying that “expressing an objection in principle” to the new national security law was “not” in line with the Basic Law.
“Returning Officers are still reviewing the validity of other nominations according to the laws. We do not rule out the possibility that more nominations would be invalidated,” the statement added.
Critics have argued that the draconian legislation has strangled the city’s basic rights and freedoms. Indeed, they were guaranteed after Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, ending 156 years of British rule.
But pro-democracy demonstrations last year and anti-Beijing unrest prompted Xi’s administration to force through a hardline national security law with minimal consultation.
Still, this latest crackdown has infuriated Hong Kongers desperate for change and triggered a Western backlash.
“The National Security law is being used to disenfranchise the majority of Hong Kong’s citizens,” Chris Patten, the last British colonial governor of Hong Kong, said in a statement last month.