Hong Kong’s High Court is considering an election petition filed by Demosisto activist Agnes Chow, who was barred from running in a Legislative Council by-election last year.

A government electoral officer disqualified Chow from running in the March 2018 by-election because of her affiliation with a group which supports self-determination for Hong Kong people, saying she would not be able to uphold the city’s Basic Law and pledge allegiance to Hong Kong.

Agnes Chow. File Photo: inmediahk.net.

Chow’s replacement candidate, Au Nok-hin – an independent supported by Demosisto – ultimately won the by-election. Chow then filed an election petition last May to challenge her disqualification.

During the hearing on Monday, senior counsel Paul Shieh – representing Chow – said she was not given an opportunity to respond to questions from the election officer before she was disqualified.

Shieh also said the election officer had no right to refuse a signed confirmation form by Chow, RTHK reported. The form was a new measure issued by the government requiring candidates to sign a declaration stating that they will uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to Hong Kong – but it is not legally binding.

Paul Shieh. File Photo: inmediahk.net

Shieh said Article 104 of the Basic Law stipulates that lawmakers must take an oath to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR when taking office, but such a requirement cannot be extended into the election process.

He said that even if a candidate does not pledge allegiance, it may be possible for them to change their political views before taking office.

Shieh added that, if an election officer could disqualify Chow from running on the basis of her group’s political views, it may spark a chilling effect whereby candidates may be discouraged from making political speeches that were considered problematic.

Johnny Mok, representing the government, said Demosisto’s plan for a referendum to decide Hong Kong’s future was not in line with the Basic Law and the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

Mok said the election officer had the right to disqualify her.

Judge Anderson Chow will make a judgment at a later date.

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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.