Hong Kong’s government has made explicit its right to take action against legislative candidates who have advocated or promoted independence for the Chinese territory ahead of elections on September 4.

An unnamed spokesman for the special administrative region’s government “expressed concerns” about individual candidates endorsing Hong Kong independence during the election period, according to a statement published to the government’s official website, which added it “reserves the right to take follow-up actions in accordance with the law.”

From the statement:

“The Government is concerned that, among all the LegCo election candidates, individual candidates have during the election period advocated or promoted the ‘independence of the Hong Kong SAR’, since such behaviour goes against the statutory declaration that they will uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the HKSAR which they signed before their nomination was validated. The HKSAR Government reserves the right to take follow-up actions in accordance with the law,” the spokesman added.

A recent survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that 17 per cent of Hong Kongers support independence, though only 4 per cent considered it feasible.

The statement will escalate pressure on activists who have expressed pro-independence sentiments. The Hong Kong government late last month barred candidate Chan Ho-tin from standing in the September legislative elections due to his advocacy of independence for the territory.

It also follows warnings from western diplomats that an increasingly hardline stance is alienating moderate Hong Kongers and young people who have grown uneasy with the growing influence of Beijing over affairs in the territory.

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