HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong authorities disqualified distinguished pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong on Tuesday from collaborating in upcoming district elections, a transfer prone to sow additional discord in a metropolis hit by 5 months of anti-government unrest.
Wong, who was 17 when he grew to become the face of the 2014 student-led Umbrella Movement, has not been a distinguished determine within the present anti-government protests, that are largely leaderless, within the Chinese-ruled metropolis.
However, the bespectacled Wong, now 23, holds a excessive profile internationally and described his disqualification – on the grounds that advocacy of Hong Kong’s self-determination violates electoral legal guidelines – as political censorship.
“The decision to ban me from running for office is clearly politically driven,” Wong mentioned on Tuesday.
“The so-called reasons are judging subjectively on my intention to uphold basic law but everyone would know that the true reason is my identity, Joshua Wong.”
This yr’s protests, which began over a now-withdrawn extradition invoice, have developed into requires higher democracy. They have plunged the town into its largest disaster in many years, taken a heavy toll on the economic system and present little signal of letting up.
They have additionally posed the most important populist problem to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he got here to energy in 2012.
Wong mentioned he was the one particular person disqualified out of greater than 1,100 candidates in district council elections set for November.
Such votes have beforehand attracted little fanfare and been dominated by pro-Beijing candidates. But a summer time of unrest has infused a brand new significance within the poll and prompted a document variety of candidates and voters to register.
“It is questionable whether Mr Wong accepts the People’s Republic of China’s sovereignty over (Hong Kong) and whether he is of the view that independence and referendum would be options for Hong Kong,” the returning officer for Wong’s district, Laura Aron, mentioned on the choice to exclude him in an announcement seen by Reuters.
Hong Kong’s authorities mentioned in an announcement one candidate was deemed invalid for contravening electoral legal guidelines that bar “advocating or promoting ‘self-determination’”. It didn’t determine Wong by identify.
Wong has mentioned he supported the concept of a non-binding referendum for individuals to have a say over Hong Kong’s future however that he’s towards independence, in keeping with a submit on his Facebook web page on Saturday.
Wong’s disqualification adopted one other weekend of protests that descended into chaotic clashes with police.
Black-clad and masked demonstrators set hearth to retailers and hurled petrol bombs, whereas residents within the working-class district of Mongkok poured on to the streets to hurl abuse at law enforcement officials despatched to subdue the protesters.
Embattled Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam mentioned on Tuesday she anticipated the Asian monetary hub to document destructive financial progress this yr, partly because of the unrest.
“Our current assessment is that the full year of 2019 will likely show negative growth, which means we won’t be able to achieve the already revised down positive growth of 0-1%,” Lam mentioned. “The situation is very grim”.
Lam’s gloomy forecast got here two days after Financial Secretary Paul Chan mentioned Hong Kong had fallen into recession and was unlikely to realize any progress this yr.
A preliminary estimate for third-quarter GDP on Thursday was anticipated to point out two successive quarters of contraction – the technical definition of a recession.
Beijing-backed Lam mentioned the federal government would unveil new measures to spice up the economic system as soon as the unrest died down, with out giving any particulars.
With guests deterred by months of violence, many small companies throughout the town have already closed or are struggling to show a revenue.
Protesters are offended about what they view as rising interference by Beijing in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 beneath a “one country, two systems” components supposed to ensure freedoms not seen on the mainland.
China denies meddling and has accused overseas governments, together with the United States and Britain, of stirring up bother.
Tourist numbers have plummeted, with customer numbers down almost 50 p.c in October, document declines in retail gross sales, rising unemployment and bankruptcies.
Reporting By Clare Jim, Donny Kwok, Farah Master and John Geddie; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Tom Westbrook; Editing by Michael Perry, Paul Tait and Raju Gopalakrishnan
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