Asia Pacific

Beijing claims Hong Kong pro-democracy primaries were backed by 'foreign forces'

Bloomberg

China condemned Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition for holding a primary contest ahead of key elections, saying the exercise was supported by “foreign forces” and may violate the city’s new national security law.

The central government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong said in a statement late Monday the primaries were “illegal.” That echoes previous statements from top Hong Kong government officials that the opposition primaries could fall afoul of the sweeping new security measures imposed by Beijing in late June.

“With the support of foreign forces, some opposition groups and their leaders have deliberately devised plans to hold these so-called ‘primaries,’ which have seriously challenged the current electoral system, and seriously damaged the fairness and justice of the Legislative Council elections,” a spokesperson, who was not named, for the Liaison Office said. “They also seriously damaged the legitimate rights and interests of other potential candidates.”

The Liaison Office, which represents Beijing’s interests in Hong Kong, specifically condemned long-time democratic activist Benny Tai, who helped organize the 2014 Occupy Central protests, for his role in orchestrating the primary. “The goal of Benny Tai and the opposition is to seize the power of governance in Hong Kong and stage the Hong Kong version of a ‘Color Revolution,’” the spokesperson said.

The opposition held the unofficial primary over the weekend to winnow the number of candidates who will compete in September’s Legislative Council election, where it hopes to win a majority. It has seen heightened interest from a spate of candidates across the political spectrum — from traditional democrats to more radical, so-called “localists” — after Hong Kong’s historic protest movement last year generated a surge of support for those looking to challenge pro-establishment candidates.

Despite government warnings and a new COVID-19 wave, more than 600,000 Hong Kong residents came out to vote in the primary.

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