Legco ban protest underlines rift in Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp

With just two weeks to the Legislative Council (Legco) election, hundreds took to the streets yesterday in a protest that drew attention to a split in the pro-democracy camp.

The march was organised to protest against the recent disqualification of six candidates from the race. The election commission has cited the pro-independence stance of the six candidates as the reason for disqualifying them.

Only three turned up yesterday.

High-profile activists Edward Leung and Andy Chan, who were among those barred from the race, stayed away. Mr Chan, 25, told The Straits Times that he was not invited and that he did not find the demonstration meaningful.

According to political analyst Johnny Lau, the pan-democratic camp has found itself more fragmented following the rise of localist and pro-independence groups and needs to find a way to mobilise its supporters before the Sept 4 polls.

Organisers say about 1,300 supporters took part in the two-hour march from Causeway Bay to the chief executive's office in Admiralty district yesterday, but police put the turnout at 760. ST PHOTO: JOYCE LIM

First-time Legco candidate Kenny Wong from localist party Youngspiration questioned the timing and effectiveness of a campaign snubbed by the very people whose rights it claims to be fighting for. He did not attend yesterday's march.

Several localist and pro-Beijing candidates have accused the moderate pan-democrats of using the march as a campaigning tool to gain more votes.

Mr Andrew Wan, 47, of The Democratic Party, disagreed. "Those who show up would be supporters of pan-democrats anyway, so I don't see how we can win more votes in showing our discontent," he said.

Accusing Beijing of politically screening the candidates, protesters yesterday demanded more autonomy for the city and greater respect for the basic rights of Hong Kongers to contest in the Sept 4 election.

Many believed the ban on the candidates was an order from Beijing to block separatists from gaining a foothold in Hong Kong's legislature. It is the first time in Hong Kong's history that any election hopeful has been disqualified from the start.

The two-hour march from Causeway Bay to the chief executive's office in Admiralty district was organised by Civil Human Rights Front, a group affiliated to the pan-democratic camp. Organisers say about 1,300 supporters took part in the protest, but police put the turnout at 760.

Undergraduate Arry Tsui, 20, said he does not support any of the banned candidates but he feels the need to fight against the interference from Beijing which "is eroding the city's autonomy over time".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2016, with the headline 'Legco ban protest underlines rift in pro-democracy camp'. Subscribe