A top pro-independence politician in Hong Kong has been barred from running in the territory's September legislative elections.
Andy Chan, the founder of the Hong Kong National Party, was one of at least 13 pro-democracy candidates who refused to sign a new required pledge stating that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. The city government announced Saturday that he has been disqualified from running.
Chan's party, which backs independence for the city-state, issued a statement saying it was "honored" to have a candidate disqualified for political reasons, and called on other parties that support democracy to boycott the election.
Declarations of outright independence from China represent the political extreme in Hong Kong, where most parties still embrace the "one-country, two-systems" model championed by Beijing. China's stance allows for the territory to be self-governed, while remaining part of mainland China. However worries that Beijing is exerting too much control and undermining Hong Kong's democratic liberties, have led to growing separatist sentiments.
Hong Kong and Chinese officials say that independence is inconsistent with Hong Kong law, and activists could face legal consequences for their views.
A rare public opinion poll on the issue conducted in mid-July by the Chinese University of Hong Kong found some 17 percent of Hong Kong residents support the territory becoming independent after 2047.
Under the terms of Hong Kong's 1997 hand-over from British to Chinese rule, the territory is to enjoy a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years.
The school randomly polled 1,010 Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong residents who were at least 15 years old.