The government has said that amendments to the Basic Law cannot be “used as a means to achieve Hong Kong independence.” The government made an official statement in response to comments from a top lawyer on whether amendments could be made to the mini-constitution to change Hong Kong’s status in China.

No amendment to the Basic Law shall contravene the established basic policies of the People’s Republic of China regarding Hong Kong, according to Article 159(4), said the government statement.

Photo: Dan Garrett.

According to the government, the basic policies are “One Country, Two Systems,” “Hong Kong ruled by Hong Kong people,” and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy. Article 1 of the Basic Law also stipulates that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China.

“Thus any amendments to the Basic Law cannot involve the basic policy of ‘Hong Kong as an inalienable part of China,’ and must not be allowed to be used as a means to achieve Hong Kong independence,” the statement said.

Five Legislative Council election candidates who have previously supported independence or Hong Kong’s return to the UK were banned from running after signing the declaration, because returning officers deemed them unable to genuinely uphold the Basic Law. Another candidate who was barred from the election refused to sign the declaration.

Edward Chan King-sang. File Photo: GovHK.

Former Bar Association chairman Edward Chan King-sang said on a Commercial Radio programme on Friday that those who advocate Hong Kong independence may not necessarily not uphold the Basic Law – a declaration candidates are required to make prior to running in the election.

“For instance, if they say they hope to convince the central government and the Hong Kong government to amend the Basic Law, to amend Article 1, then it is not a problem,” he said.

Chan was one of the 30 lawyers – who are also members of the 1,200-strong Election Committee – to issue a joint-statement on Wednesday expressing their deep regret for the decision by the election regulatory body.

They said that returning officers were not empowered by the law to make a subjective and political decision to disqualify a candidate.

Chan said on the programme that returning officers should not have a judicial role, and that it should be up to the court to decide whether candidates had made fake declarations when pledging to uphold the Basic Law, as it was “a very serious accusation.”

Justice secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said that there is a legal basis for the decision by the returning officers.

Emily Lau. File Photo: Stand News.

International pressure

Meanwhile, Democratic Party chairperson Emily Lau Wai-hing wrote to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations condemning the decision.

“The Democratic Party condemns the Leung Administration’s decision to take away the right of the six people to stand for Legislative Council Election, which is a violation of the [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and seriously undermines the rule of law and the people’s enjoyment of their basic rights.”

“We call on the Human Rights Committee and the Special Rapporteur on follow-up to concluding observations of the Committee to take urgent action by expressing concern over the decisions to ban the localists and call on the HKSAR government to rescind the decisions.”

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.