Basic Law Committee Chair Li Fei has said that Hong Kong self-determination is the same as Hong Kong independence and that it violates the city’s Basic Law.

After a meeting with China’s top legislature on Thursday, Deputy Secretary General Li said that self-determination was merely a different expression of independence: “It’s the same, no matter what they say— it’s just a different choice of words, but the nature is the same.”

Li Fei
Li Fei. File

When asked whether the disqualification of activist Agnes Chow from entering the March Legislative Council race was unconstitutional, as pro-democracy veteran Martin Lee has said, Li said he was unsure. “That is regulated by your own laws in Hong Kong,” he said.

Last month, an election officer rejected Chow’s candidacy, saying she “cannot possibly comply” with electoral laws as her party advocated notions of self-determination. Chow is a member of Demosisto, which promotes the ideology, though they deny it is equal to advocating independence for the city.

Agnes Chow
Agnes Chow. Photo: In-Media.

Li added that the Basic Law interpretation made by China’s top legislature over the requirements for oath-taking and eligibility for elections have already provided “very clear explanations” on the matter. “Hong Kong must carry it out,” he said.

Li also denied that the interpretation resulted in any pressure on the part of the election official, and said that the administrator was acting “according to the law” in disqualifying Chow.

Basic Law Committee vice-chairman Zhang Rongshun said that the law gave electoral officers the power to review the eligibility of candidates, and said they must act according to the Chinese legislature’s decision and the law, RTHK reported.

Asked whether Demosisto would be allowed to run if they amend their platform so that they no longer propose self-determination, Zhang said to wait for this to happen before discussing the matter.

The move to bar Chow from the legislative by-elections was criticised by NGOs, foreign governments and pro-democracy politicians. An EU statement in January said: “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.”

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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.