China declares Hong Kong's pro-democracy primaries 'illegal'

China declares primaries held by Hong Kong’s pro-democratic parties ‘illegal’ and brands polls a ‘naked violation’ of the law

  • Beijing’s officials in Hong Kong labelled the polls ‘a naked violation of the law’ 
  • They vowed to support the city’s government to ‘seriously deal with the matter’ 
  • More than 600,000 Hong Kongers turned out at the weekend for the primaries
  • Carrie Lam said the primary election might have violated the new security law 

China has declared primaries held by Hong Kong’s pro-democratic parties at the weekend ‘illegal’ and vowed to support the city’s government to ‘seriously deal with the matter’.

Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong branded the polls as ‘a naked violation of the law’ and pledged to ‘prevent outside forces from taking control of Hong Kong’s political affairs’.

The city’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam yesterday claimed that the primary election ‘may fall into the category of subverting the state power’ under the new national security law.

Beijing’s representatives in Hong Kong have branded polls held by Hong Kong’s pro-democratic parties ‘a naked violation of the law’. More than 600,000 Hong Kongers turned out over the weekend to choose candidates for upcoming legislative elections despite warnings

The Hong Kong government said yesterday it was conducting an in-depth investigation into complaints regarding the primaries and would seek legal advice if necessary. 

More than 600,000 Hong Kongers turned out over the weekend to choose candidates for upcoming legislative elections despite warnings from government officials that the exercise could breach Beijing’s sweeping new law.

Polls for the city’s partially elected legislature are due to take place in September.

Pro-democracy parties are keen to use seething public anger towards Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule to win a majority within a chamber that has always been weighted in favour of pro-establishment parties.

Control could give them a greater ability to stall budgets and legislation, one of the few tactics left open to the opposition camp.

Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong described the primaries as ‘a serious provocation against the current election system’. Pictured, Luo Huining, director of the Office, speaks during a ceremony to mark the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover

China’s new national security law for Hong Kong targets subversion, sedition, terrorism and foreign collusion with penalties of up to life in prison. It went into effect at 11pm on June 30

But the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong described the primaries as ‘a serious provocation against the current election system’.

The agency, which represents China’s government in the semi-autonomous city, accused the primaries of ‘destroying the Legislative Council’s fair and just election’.

In a statement released late Monday, it vowed to ‘resolutely’ support Hong Kong leaders to ‘lawfully investigate and deal with the individuals who have violated the law and regulations’. 

It said campaigning that pushed to take control of and paralyse the chamber is a breach of Article 22 of the security law.

Article 22 targets ‘subverting state power’. It outlaws ‘serious interference and obstruction’ of the central and Hong Kong governments, or any act that causes them to be ‘unable to perform their functions normally’.

The Hong Kong government said yesterday it was conducting an in-depth investigation into complaints regarding the primaries at the weekend and would seek legal advice if necessary 

Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed Chief Executive Carrie Lam yesterday said the primaries might have breached the national security law.

She said at a press conference: ‘If this so-called primary election’s purpose is to achieve the ultimate goal of delivering what they call a 35-plus with the objective of objecting to or resisting every policy initiative of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, then it may fall into the category of subverting the state power, which is now one of the four types of offences under the new national security law.’   

The Liaison Office’s statement also singled out Benny Tai, a prominent democracy activist who played a leading role in organising the primaries.

‘The goal of the Benny Tai gang and the opposition camp is to seize power to govern Hong Kong, with a vain attempt to launch a Hong Kong version of a “colour revolution”,’ a spokesperson said.

Colour revolution is a term used to describe multiple popular protest movements around the world that either swept a government from power or tried to.

However in authoritarian Communist China — itself a state built from revolution — the term has frequently been used by both the government and state media to describe an illegitimate revolution backed by hidden, usually western, forces.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam yesterday said the primaries ‘may fall into the category of subverting the state power’ under China’s new national security law for Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy parties are keen to use seething public anger towards Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule over the Asian financial hub to win a majority in the legislature

Tai, a law professor, has previously been jailed for his involvement in peaceful pro-democracy protests in 2014.

On Tuesday, the Apple Daily newspaper published a column by Tai in which he hailed the primaries.

‘Threats from the powerful did not deter tens of thousands of citizens from coming out and casting a ballot,’ he wrote.

‘They have not given up on their determination to pursue democracy and universal suffrage.’

Apple Daily’s owner is by Jimmy Lai, one of the few tycoons in Hong Kong to openly support democracy. He is also being prosecuted for taking part in pro-democracy protests. 

Beijing singled out Benny Tai (pictured on July 11), a prominent democracy activist who played a leading role in organising the primaries. It accused Tai of attempting a ‘colour revolution’

Hong Kong has seen waves of pro-democracy demonstrations over the last decade.

But last year the city was convulsed by seven straight months of huge and often violent protests.

In response, Beijing imposed its security law in a bid to end the unrest once and for all.

The legislation bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and its contents had been kept secret until the law was enacted at the end of last month.

It targets subversion, sedition, terrorism and foreign collusion with penalties of up to life in prison.

But its broad phrasing — such as a ban on encouraging hatred of China’s government — has sent fear rippling through a city used to speaking its mind.

Hong Kong was rocked by a series of anti-government mass protests last year before China bypassed the city’s parliament and approved the national security law. Pictured, riot police secure an area outside of a branch of HSBC during a rally on New Years Day on January 1

Beijing now claims jurisdiction over some serious cases and has allowed its intelligence apparatus to set up shop openly in the territory for the first time.

Those provisions have ended the legal firewall that existed between the Chinese mainland’s Communist Party-controlled courts and Hong Kong’s independent judiciary.

National security laws are routinely used on the mainland to crush dissent.

China says the Hong Kong legislation is needed to return stability after last year’s protests, which it has portrayed as a foreign plot to destabilise the motherland.

Opponents, including many Western nations, say the law has started to demolish the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ model where China agreed to let the city retain key civil liberties, as well as legislative and judicial autonomy, until 2047.

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