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A panel of 1,989 Hong Kong voters will choose 36 deputies to the National People’s Congress by block vote on December 19. Photo: Xinhua

Nine Hong Kong democracy activists banned from contesting seats in China’s legislature

Elections to choose Hong Kong deputies to the National People’s Congress now require candidates to swear allegiance to the Chinese constitution

Nine Hong Kong democracy activists have been banned from the race to elect 36 deputies to China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislative body.

The move is in line with an unprecedented new rule that says candidates aspiring to represent the city in the NPC must swear to uphold the Chinese constitution and the “one country, two systems” principle under which Hong Kong is governed.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, pro-independence activist Yeung Ke-cheong and seven supporters of Hong Kong’s Occupy democracy protests of 2014 had their candidacies invalidated. A 10th candidate was disqualified because he did not hand in any nomination forms.

The decisions were made on Wednesday morning by the 19-member presidium that oversees the poll, which will be held on Tuesday next week. The body is chaired by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and its members include two of her predecessors, Leung Chun-ying and Tung Chee-hwa.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki had his candidacy invalidated. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

In total, 49 candidates will run for the 36 seats. They include two pro-democracy figures, Roger Wong Hoi-fung and Henry Lam, who in March joined Hong Kong’s pan-democratic camp in nominating John Tsang Chun-wah and Woo Kwok-hing to contest Carrie Lam in the city’s leadership poll.

In the NPC elections five years ago, two pan-democrats, Paul Zimmerman and Fong King-lok, were allowed to run but they both failed to get elected.

Hong Kong pan-dems to snub election run for deputies to China’s NPC after change in rules

In March, the national legislature endorsed new rules for the election of Hong Kong and Macau deputies, making it mandatory for candidates to sign a declaration that they would uphold the Chinese constitution and Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

Among the nine activists who had their candidacies invalidated, Kwok was the only one who refused to sign the declaration.

The Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where the National People’s Congress meets. Photo: EPA

Asked why Yeung and the seven Occupy supporters were not allowed to run, the presidium’s spokesman, Ambrose Lau Hon-chuen, said the ruling was made according to recommendations by the NPC Standing Committee.

“In accordance with the regulations, authorities related to the Standing Committee collected material on some aspirants’ public remarks and acts. They were widely reported by the media and contravened the content of the declaration,” Lau said, declining to disclose details.

Hong Kong independence would bring ‘calamity’, warns mainland China’s NPC chief Zhang Dejiang

Last month Lau warned that candidates who failed to make their declarations “genuinely” would be disqualified.

Kwok said the disqualifications demonstrated the “ridiculousness and falseness” of the election, which he called “just a show”.

“Why do they have to set so many bars to screen candidates? It doesn’t help integration between the mainland and Hong Kong,” he said.

A panel of 1,989 Hong Kong voters, including about 300 pan-democrats, will choose the 36 deputies by block vote on December 19.

Among the 49 candidates, 26 are seeking re-election, while 23 are currently not NPC deputies.

The 23 include lawyer and opponent of the 2014 Occupy movement Maggie Chan Man-ki, former constitutional and mainland affairs minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, and Tam Yiu-chung, a former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city’s largest pro-establishment political party. Tam Yiu-chung is tipped to replace the retiring Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai as the sole local delegate to the NPC Standing Committee.

Incumbent deputy and businessman Wong Ting-chung, with 1,073 endorsements, is the member with the highest number of nominations.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Nine activists banned from NPC poll