Legislative Council elections 2016

Undue caution? Joshua Wong blasts Hong Kong officials over hold-ups in Demosisto party registration and mailings

Student activist claims localist group founded in April unable to set up bank account and leader Nathan Law asked about content in campaign pamphlets

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 August, 2016, 12:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 1:07pm

The Companies Registry has asked Demosisto to explain if it adheres to the Basic Law in pushing for Hong Kong’s “self-determination” as the party tries to register as a company, the party’s secretary general Joshua Wong Chi-fung revealed on Thursday morning.

Speaking on an RTHK programme, the 19-year-old university student activist said the registry and police had yet to allow his party, founded in April, to register as a company or society. The party was thus unable to set up its own bank account to raise funds as other parties did, Wong said, and had to rely instead on individual members’ personal accounts.

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“It’s unreasonable,” he said. “The Companies Registry is just a government department. If you have doubts about our goal, you can consult the Department of Justice.”

He added the new political party’s lawyers were “drafting documents to respond to the inquiry” as Demosisto believed political views should not be a factor in registering a company.

The Open University student’s revelation came amid a raging controversy over eligibility for the Legislative Council elections, as the Electoral Affairs Commission and returning officers were criticised for disqualifying six candidates because of their advocacy of the city’s independence.

Wong said while the candidacy of his party’s chairman, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, on Hong Kong Island had been approved, his team still faced difficulties.

He said Hongkong Post had sought legal advice from the justice department regarding Law’s campaign pamphlets mentioning phrases such as “self-determination” before agreeing to mail them to 600,000 voters in the constituency.

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“You could say it was too sensitive to mention ‘self-determination’, but Hongkong Post told us it was even seeking legal advice on phrases such as ‘civil referendum’, ‘determine our future’, and it being ‘difficult for Hong Kong to be autonomous under China’s economic pressure’,” Wong said.

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He noted a new version of Law’s pamphlets was approved on Wednesday after the party replaced the phrases in question with icons such as the sun, moon and stars. He added the revised pamphlets stated the content was subject to ”universe-scale political censorship”.

Law said Demosisto would print the revised version of the pamphlets on Thursday if there was no response from Hongkong Post regarding the original version. “We will also consider seeking judicial review on the approval of mail and pamphlets to protest against such injustice,” he said.

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Wong claimed the deadline Hongkong Post gave Demosisto to submit the pamphlets for posting was August 12. “We couldn’t let Hongkong Post wait for its legal advice, nor could we spend more than HK$200,000 to print pamphlets just to know the authorities would not circulate them for us,” he said.

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In April, Wong accused HSBC of exercising “political censorship” in rejecting his request to open a joint savings account to handle Demosisto’s business. His accusations came weeks after the Companies Registry refused to register the Hong Kong National Party, which had pledged to use “whatever means available” for Hong Kong to break away from the mainland.