Hong Kong’s biggest pro-democracy party shuns ‘patriotic only’ elections

Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy party will not participate in the upcoming “patriotic-only” parliamentary elections after none of its members meet the party’s deadline for candidacy on Monday.

The move means that the December elections were effectively boycotted by the city’s pro-democracy opposition, with even the most moderate wing of the movement deciding it was not worth participating.

Members of the Democratic Party had been divided over whether to continue the Hong Kong political process as authorities cracked down on dissent in response to huge and often violent protests two years ago.

On Monday evening, the party said no one applied among its members before the deadline.

One member, veteran Tiananmen Square activist Han Dongfang, had previously said he wanted to run but failed to secure enough party nominations.

The result is a blow to the Hong Kong government which has pushed the narrative that the once frank city remains politically pluralistic even as dozens of opposition figures are jailed and disqualified from running for office.

Most of Hong Kong’s main pro-democracy parties have either dissolved or seen their leaders decimated by arrests and prosecutions.

As part of an overhaul imposed by Beijing earlier this year, only those considered “staunch patriots” are allowed to participate in politics, and anyone running for public office should be screened for security risks. national.

The overhaul also reduced the number of directly elected seats in the city’s legislature from half to less than a quarter.

The rest will be appointed by pro-Beijing committees and interest groups that have been vetted for political loyalty.

Beijing is sensitive to any initiative that could call into question its new “patriots only” political model.

The government has warned that anyone urging others to boycott the new polls could be prosecuted.

Last month, a prominent Beijing adviser said the Democratic Party could face prosecution under Hong Kong’s new national security law if it refuses to field candidates.

Beijing imposed the security law on Hong Kong last June to quell dissent after the city was rocked by massive and often violent pro-democracy protests in 2019.

He says the law and the new system of political control have restored stability and eliminated “anti-Chinese elements.”

Critics, including many Western powers, say the crackdown has gutted Beijing’s promise that Hong Kong could maintain certain freedoms and turned the financial center into a mirror of the authoritarian mainland.

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