The European Union has criticised Hong Kong’s decision to ban pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow from running in the March Legislative Council by-election.

Chow was barred by an election officer over her affiliation with her party Demosisto, which supports self-determination for Hong Kong people. The election officer said: “If a person advocates or promotes self-determination or independence by any means, he or she cannot possibly uphold the Basic Law or fulfil his or her duties as a legislator.”

Agnes Chow
Agnes Chow. Photo: Demosisto.Agnes Chow

A statement issued by the spokesperson for EU top foreign affairs official Federica Mogherini on Tuesday said: “The decision by a Hong Kong returning officer to bar Agnes Chow from running for a Legislative Council by-election on the basis of her political affiliation, subsequently supported by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, risks diminishing Hong Kong’s international reputation as a free and open society.”

“The protection of civil and political rights in Hong Kong is an essential part of the implementation of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle, which the EU supports,” it added.

See also: Interview: Pro-democracy by-election candidate Agnes Chow: who is she and why does she want your vote?

“Barring candidates from standing for election because of their political beliefs is in contradiction with the right under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whose application is guaranteed in Hong Kong by the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, to stand for election without unreasonable restrictions.”

Demosisto has said they will not give up advocating for self-determination.

Agnes Chow
A page in the election officer’s reason for disqualifying Agnews Chow. Photo: GovHK.

In an interview with HKFP last Thursday, Chow explained her party’s stance: “Demosisto advocates self-determination, which is about civil liberties, universal suffrage, and the ability to make life choices and not follow rules made by big businesses working in cahoots with the government. It’s completely different from advocating independence.”

When the party was launched in 2016, it proposed a public referendum on Hong Kong’s future, which would include an option for independence from China.

Foreign orgs lack ‘understanding’

Also on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the disqualification of Chow was made in accordance with the law.

“It is not… as foreign organisations say, stripping one of their right to run because of her political affiliation,” she said, adding that the government has been communicating with people of different political affiliation everyday.

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“Whether it’s foreign organisations or politicians, they often do not have a good understanding of Hong Kong or constitutional position. I hope that they could also familiarise themselves with Hong Kong’s constitutional situation and legal system.”

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.