Hong Kong authorities have disqualified 12 pro-democracy candidates from running in September’s legislative elections.
The government said Thursday the candidates were barred because they opposed the new national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the central government in Beijing, as well as advocating for the financial hub’s independence.
The announcement did not specify which candidates have been expelled from the ballot for the Legislative Council elections, but prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong confirmed on social media that he was among the 12 disqualified.
Wong was one of many pro-democracy activists who were nominated in an unofficial primary held earlier this month. More than 600,000 voters cast ballots in the primary that authorities warned was possibly illegal.
Other candidates who have been barred from the September elections include three members of the pro-democracy Civic Party. The government said more candidates could be disqualified from the election.
The disqualifications are the latest actions by authorities to stamp out Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement since the new national security law took effect on July 1. Four young activists between the ages of 16 and 21 who belonged to a disbanded pro-independence group were arrested Wednesday on secessionist charges.
Police refused to identify the students, but the group Studentlocalism announced on social media that its former convenor, Tony Chung, 19, was arrested Wednesday night for “inciting secession.” Activists said at least two other former group members also were arrested about the same time.
Under the new security law, anyone in Hong Kong believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and face life in prison if convicted.
The new law was a response to the massive and often violent pro-democracy demonstrations that engulfed the financial hub in the last half of last year.
Western governments and human rights advocates say the measure effectively ends the self-autonomy guaranteed under the pact that switched control of Hong Kong from Britain to China in 1997.