My Take

Hong Kong not unique in barring some from running in elections 

Even Western democracies such as Spain and Germany have banned – or at least tried to ban – parties and individuals who threaten the integrity of the political and social order

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 4:32am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 4:32am

Hong Kong may have barred some secessionists from running in polls to be lawmakers, but we are nowhere close, as claimed by some, to banning their parties.

It’s now clear that Agnes Chow Ting, who has been disqualified from running in the Legislative Council by-election in March, and her localist party Demosisto, are committed to separatism, and violating the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, on which the “one country, two systems” governing principle is based.

 Their claim that they only wanted self-determination was a subterfuge to get Chow qualified for the poll. 

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In its original party constitution, Demosisto not only called for “democratic self-determination”, but opposed Chinese communist rule and supported a referendum to push for the city’s autonomy. 

The revised version has dropped the references to anti-communism and autonomy, retaining only the phrase “democratic self-determination”. 

Demosisto co-founder Joshua Wong Chi-fung claimed the changes were minor and were made to help laypeople understand the party’s stance better. So, did Chow, Wong and Co have a change of heart and decide to moderate their stance? Hardly. These people are the ones who cross their arms and stand with their backs to the national and Hong Kong flags at formal occasions such as the annual July 1 handover celebrations, when the national anthem is played.

The changes to their party constitution are naked opportunism. But is disqualifying Chow justified? Well, her party is committed to challenging the very foundations on which Hong Kong’s political order is based. It’s not unusual to ban such parties, even in democracies. 

Did Demosisto play down its political aims to help Agnes Chow’s poll bid?

In 2003, the Israeli Central Elections Committee disqualified the Israeli Arab party Balad for denying Israel’s right to exist as a democratic Jewish state; the Supreme Court reversed the disqualification.

 Between 1993 and 2009, Turkey banned the People’s Labour Party and its various successors for supporting a Kurdish party branded a terrorist group.

 Austria banned the National Democratic Party for trying to revive national socialist ideas.

Spain banned the Basque nationalist party Herri Batasuna and its successor parties. The leader of the Catalan independence movement is in exile and faces arrest for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds if he returns to Spain. In 2002, Germany almost banned the far-right NPD party, but failed on legal technicalities.

It’s always controversial in liberal societies to bar individuals from elections or ban parties. But it’s sometimes necessary to protect the integrity of the political and social order.