Hong Kong authorities have disqualified prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong from standing in the 24 November district elections, a move likely to sow discord among anti-government demonstrators as an illegal Halloween march looms.
Wong, who was 17 when he became the face of the 2014 student-led Umbrella Movement, has not been a leading figure in the latest five-month spate of largely leaderless protests in the Chinese-ruled city.
However, the bespectacled Wong, now 23, holds a high profile internationally and described his disqualification – on the grounds that advocacy of Hong Kong’s self-determination violates electoral laws – as political censorship.
“The decision to ban me from running (for) office is clearly politically driven,” Wong said on Tuesday.
“The so-called ‘reasons’ is judging subjectively on my intention to uphold Basic Law. But everyone would know that the true reason is my identity, Joshua Wong.”
This year’s protests, which started over a now-withdrawn extradition bill, have evolved into calls for greater democracy. They have plunged the city into its biggest crisis in decades, taking a heavy toll on the economy and showing little sign of letting up.
They have also posed the biggest populist challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
Wong said he was the only person disqualified out of more than 1,100 candidates in district council elections set for November 24.
Such votes have previously attracted little fanfare and been dominated by pro-Beijing candidates. But a summer of unrest has infused a new significance in the poll and prompted a record number 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, said in a statement seen by Reuters.