BEIJING (AP) — China on Wednesday strongly backed Hong Kong’s move to exclude pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong from elections for local councilors, a decision seen as likely to fuel further public anger in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
The statement from the Cabinet’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office Wednesday came as Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam warned of the economic damage caused by months of anti-government protests but said the government would not address underlying social and economic concerns until the violence ended.
Hong Kong’s economy has hit the buffers amid the ongoing violence, with the government saying visitor numbers have fallen by half and retail sales are off by 25 percent in recent months against the same period last year.
Wong, 23, has been repeatedly arrested and jailed in relation to his advocacy of greater democracy, but has not played a major role in the current protests that began in June and have grown more violent.
Despite, that China’s Communist leaders have targeted him in accusing foreign powers of colluding with anti-China separatists to foment unrest.
The Cabinet office statement, citing spokesman Yang Guang, said it “agreed and supported” the decision by the Hong Kong elections office, saying Wong had been “constantly pleading with foreign powers for intervention” in the territory’s affairs.
Wong’s advocacy “challenged the bottom line of the principle of ‘one country, two systems,’” the office said, referring to the governing framework under which Hong Kong was handed over from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Wong is “one of the chief culprits in the plot to undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and fundamentally does not meet the requirements of adhering to (Hong Kong’s mini-constitution) and showing loyalty to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region that are demanded of a candidate for office,” the statement said.
Wong had disclosed his disqualification as a candidate in the Nov. 24 local district council elections Tuesday. He called the decision politically driven and said it would backfire. “It will just trigger more and more Hong Kongers to take to the street and also vote in the election.”
In a speech to a trade conference, Lam said it was a “distressing time for Hong Kong trade and business” and that the violence must end.
“Once calmness returns, we are committed to finding solutions to some of those deep-seated problems revealed by the extensive protests over these past four months,” she said.