Hong Kong on Saturday banned pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow from running in upcoming elections in a move widely seen as political interference from China.
China has increased pressure on Hong Kong authorities to quash any attempts to further independence from the mainland as it seeks to tighten its grip on the semi-autonomous city.
'Future of Hong Kong'
- Agnes Chow is a 21-year-old pro-democracy activist and former leader of the Umbrella Movement that rallied for democratic reforms in 2014.
- In a press conference, Chow said the Demosisto party "never had a pro-independence stance," but instead called for the "right to self-determination on the future of Hong Kong."
Chow was contesting a seat in Hong Kong's parliament as part of by-elections that were triggered in the wake of six lawmakers protesting while taking their oaths of office in 2016.
If Chow had successfully contested her seat, she would have become Hong Kong's youngest lawmaker.
In their own words
The Hong Kong government cited the Demosisto party platform as its main reason for barring Chow, saying: "Self-determination or changing the HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Administration Region) system by referendum which includes the choice of independence is inconsistent with the constitutional and legal status of the HKSAR as stipulated in the Basic Law."
But Chow hit back at the government's decision, saying" Our political freedom should be well protected under the legal system of Hong Kong. The decision to disqualify my candidacy means that the political rights are being handicapped."
The Demosisto party accused the government of retribution for pro-democracy protests in 2014, describing the ban as "payback against an entire generation."
Is Hong Kong part of China: In short, yes. Following British rule, Hong Kong was turned over to Beijing under a "one country, two systems" arrangement settled in 1997. The agreement allowed Hong Kong to retain substantial autonomy, with the promise of eventual universal suffrage.
Have other pro-democracy activists been targeted: Yes. Earlier this week, Joshua Wong, who helped lead the Umbrella Movement, was jailed for playing a "lead role" in the pro-democracy protests in 2014.
What happens next: It is unclear whether the Demosisto party or Chow can launch an appeal against the government's decision.
ls/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)