Hong Kong Opposition Slate Vows to Fight China Security Law

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition vowed Wednesday to push back against the sweeping new national security law imposed by China, as they rolled out the results of a primary contest that Beijing called illegal.

The city’s pro-democracy parties completed a two-day primary Sunday, drawing more than 600,000 voters in an effort to narrow a surge of candidates ahead of September elections for the city’s Legislative Council. However, Hong Kong’s government and China’s top agency in the city have said the process could violate the new security measures barring subversion and collusion with foreign forces, and pledged to investigate and possibly prosecute the primary’s organizers.

“We will fight against the national security law without hesitation,” the opposition said in a statement naming 16 candidates including one of the city’s most prominent activists, Joshua Wong. “In the future, we will meet pan-democratic primary candidates for consultation, hoping that the entire democratic camp will be united without letting voters down.”

The flurry of denunciations has sparked fears in the opposition that even successful candidates -- such as Wong, the star of a Netflix documentary on a previous wave of protests in 2014 -- could find themselves disqualified ahead of the election in September, in which the opposition hopes to win a majority. The window to begin registering for the election opens on July 18.

The opposition released its statement hours after U.S. President Donald Trump ended some special privileges for Hong Kong to punish China for clamping down on dissent. Later Wednesday, Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, told a virtual forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, that the president had been “resolute” against interfering in the city’s protests last year.

Still, Bolton said support for Hong Kong’s democracy movement was “broad and deep” in the West. “Don’t think that anybody’s giving up on you,” Bolton said.

Results, Resignation

The unofficial voting process was designed to overcome fractures in the opposition movement between traditional democrats and more radical so-called localists, and present an organized slate of candidates that could then benefit from the momentum generated by last year’s historic protests to oust pro-establishment rivals.

As the results emerged, it appeared that Hong Kong’s opposition voters were leaning more toward younger, protest-oriented candidates such as Jimmy Sham, who helped organize many of Hong Kong’s biggest protests last year, localist candidate Ventus Lau and Winnie Yu, a nurse who led a health workers union strike in the early days of the pandemic. Still, many chose some of the city’s more high-profile opposition leaders, including Alvin Yeung and Claudia Mo.

Following the primary, the pushback from Beijing and Hong Kong’s China-backed government was fierce.

One of the organizers of the primary, Au Nok-hin, actually resigned on Wednesday amid mounting pressure following the closely-watched exercise as Chinese officials blasted the primary for violating the national security law, which has sentences of up to life in prison.

“I don’t think there is any rational room in our society,” Au told reporters earlier on Wednesday. “No matter how I reiterate that the primaries are reasonable, the pressure is still humongous.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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