Chief Executive Carrie Lam has denied that pro-democracy candidate Agnes Chow was banned from running in the March legislative elections because of her political affiliation.

On Saturday, Chow was barred by an election officer over her association with her party Demosisto, which supports self-determination for Hong Kong people. The 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.”

The European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao on Tuesday issued a statement stating that the decision to ban Agnes Chow from running on basis of her political affiliation “risks diminishing Hong Kong’s international reputation as a free and open society.”

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Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Lam said that Hong Kong values the right to election and the right is guaranteed under the Basic Law. However, the right must be enjoyed in accordance with the law, and a lawmaker must make a declaration stating that one upholds the Basic Law and be loyal to the government.

“This [decision] is made in accordance with the law. It is not… as foreign organisations say, stripping one’s right to run because of their political affiliation.”

Lam also said that there are many in the Legislative Council or candidates in the by-elections that had political affiliations: “Why would the Hong Kong government use political affiliation to prevent certain individuals from taking part in the elections?”

“But, if certain political ideologies clearly fall into – with a clear factual basis – violating the Basic Law, not complying with the spirit of One Country, Two Systems – or, even more seriously, advocate Hong Kong independence or self-governance, or allow independence or self-governance of a place to be an option – then this does not comply with the legal requirement I discussed.”

Speaking on the topic of Hong Kong’s reputation, Lam said: “Whether it’s foreign organisations or politicians, they often have not completely grasped Hong Kong’s situation or constitutional position.” She said she hopes they could familiarise themselves with the city’s constitutional and legal system via different means.

Edward Yiu and Agnes Chow
Edward Yiu and Agnes Chow. Photo: In-Media.

Lam said that it was not a matter of allowing Chow to explain herself, as the law is clear and there is a factual basis for the decision, as seen from the candidate’s nomination form. She added that the candidate could consider an election petition or other legal means to handle the matter.

Lam also denied that there was any pressure from herself or the Secretary for Justice. “There is absolutely no ground for that sort of accusation or allegation of pressure. The returning officers in Hong Kong are acting in accordance with the law to determine the eligibility of each case based on provisions in the law as well as the evidence put in front of the returning officer.”

“Of course, in the course of discharging his or her statutory duty, the returning officer may need to approach the Department of Justice for some legal advice.”

Chow is not the first Hongkonger to face disqualification. Since the 2016 legislative election, 12 other citizens have been banned from standing, or disqualified from the legislature after being democratically elected. A rally protesting Chow’s disqualification drew a crowd of 2,000 attendees on Sunday.

The March by-elections are taking place to replace four lawmakers who were ousted by courts over their oath-taking. Six were disqualified by the courts in total, but two appeals lodged by Lau Siu-lai and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung have yet to be completed.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.