HONG KONG: Election chiefs in Macau on Friday disqualified 21 candidates from an upcoming legislative election citing "disloyalty", dealing another blow to democratic freedoms in the Chinese gambling hub, reports AFP.
Like neighbouring Hong Kong, Macau is a "semi-autonomous" Chinese city, though the central government has in recent years taken an increasingly direct role in the running of the former European colonies.
Tong Hio Fong, president of the Electoral Affairs Committee (EAC) in the former Portuguese enclave, said there was evidence that 21 candidates for the September 12 election did not meet the allegiance requirements.
"According to the electoral law, they are not qualified to be elected," Tong told media.
He refused to reveal why the 21 -- from six different parties, and most running on a pro-democracy platform -- were deemed disloyal, but said the committee had made its "analysis and judgement" based on information provided by the city's security bureau.
The disqualified candidates included veteran pro-democracy activists, sitting lawmakers and former lawmakers in the city of about 600,000 people.
Tong added that the parties could change candidates or appeal the decisions.
"The New Macau Association has immediately requested the complete resolution to be handed to us," the group said in a statement.
Dissenting voices have similarly been purged from ballot papers in Hong Kong, a city much larger than Macau and with a stronger tradition of pro-democracy activism.
Last year, multiple candidates were barred from running in a legislative election, which was subsequently postponed.
And in March, Beijing approved a radical overhaul of the city's electoral system to have all candidates vetted by security police to make sure they are sufficiently patriotic.
A wider crackdown -- launched after Hong Kong's huge and often violent pro-democracy rallies of 2019 -- has left most high-profile opponents of the government either in prison, facing prosecution, or fled abroad.