February 14, 2018 3:04 am JST

Hong Kong court upholds ban against independence candidate

Ruling backs power of election panel as Andy Chan sought to overturn 2016 vote

YASUO AWAI, Nikkei staff writer

Hong Kong democracy activists rally outside the government headquarters in September to mark the third anniversary of the "Umbrella Movement." © Reuters

HONG KONG -- The High Court here sided Tuesday with Hong Kong election officials who blocked a pro-independence candidate from a 2016 legislative race, a ruling that sets a precedent for similar cases in the Chinese administrative region.

Andy Chan Ho-tin of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party tried to run for office in 2016 by signing a pledge that he would uphold the Basic Law stipulating that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. But the Electoral Affairs Commission rejected his candidacy, citing Chan's online posts and remarks to reporters as evidence that he supported Hong Kong independence.

Chan asked the court to nullify the election results, arguing infringement of his freedom to seek the legislative office, but the High Court turned down his plea.

The territory's government welcomed Tuesday's ruling, saying it affirms the electoral commission's prerogative to determine whether candidates are truthful in their written pledge.

The Hong Kong National Party is considering appealing the verdict. The party released a statement expressing disappointment in the judicial system, lamenting that the region's "judicial courts have submitted" to China's sovereignty and are "no longer the defender of the civilized Rule of Law."

The commission has blocked another independence candidate, Agnes Chow Ting, from by-elections set for March 11. Chow belongs to the Demosisto party, formed by leaders of the 2014 "Umbrella Movement" pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The electoral commission appears to be acting on the wishes of the government in Beijing. President Xi Jinping has warned that the central government will tolerate no challenge to its authority.

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