Edward Leung, a member of pro-independence party Hong Kong Indigenous, was barred Tuesday from competing in the city’s legislative elections Sept. 4 on grounds that his political views run afoul of Hong Kong’s de facto constitution. The 25-year-old is a leading figure in the “localist” movement, which calls for the democratization of Hong Kong and distance from mainland China. Leung received 15% of the vote in a February by-election, thanks to his popularity among youths, and was widely expected to win a seat on the Legislative Council if he ran next month. Many think Beijing was unwilling to have a pro-independence lawmaker on the city’s assembly and had Leung disqualified by the Electoral Affairs Commission. Doubts over the sustainability of the “one country, two systems” policy, which grants Hong Kong autonomy on most issues except diplomacy and defense, are expected to grow further.
The electoral commission required potential candidates to sign a pledge to uphold the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which stipulates the city is “an inalienable part” of China. Leung signed the declaration right before the deadline and even renounced his past remarks calling for Hong Kong’s independence, but still was not allowed to run.
Though Leung signed the pledge, he had claimed previously on Facebook and other outlets that he would continue advocating Hong Kong’s independence after joining the Legislative Council, the commission said Tuesday regarding its decision.
Several other pro-independence candidates were disqualified, but moderate democrats who refused to sign the pledge were allowed to run. The electoral commission’s decision was “arbitrary and cannot be defended logically,” a legal expert said.