China has passed a law that bars pro-independence lawmakers from assuming office in Hong Kong's legislature, in the most direct intervention in the territory since its handover to Chinese rule in 1997.
An amendment to Hong Kong's Basic Law was passed by the Chinese parliament on Monday, state news agency Xinhua reported, preventing Hong Kong' pro- independence leaders from holding public office.
The unprecedented move by the National People's Congress Standing Committee followed a standoff in Hong Kong's legislature after two elected members of the legislative body rebuffed China openly in their oaths of office.
In the face of vigorous protests in the city the British held until two decades ago, against China's increasing political interventions, Beijing said unambiguously that it will oppose any move for Hong Kong independence.
"The interpretation demonstrates the central government's firm determination and will in opposing 'Hong Kong independence,"' China's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said in a statement Monday, Xinhua reported.
The standoff between Hong Kong's pro-independence leaders and Beijing worsened after the legislature president allowed the lawmakers to retake their oaths and assume office. Hong Kong's chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who has Beijing's backing, barred the move and sent the matter to a local court, seeking the removal of the localists from the legislature.
One country, two systems
Beijing says any advocacy for independence is a violation of the Basic Law that stipulates that the city is an "inalienable part" of the mainland.
However, Hong Kong localists argue that the communist China's highhandedness is a violation of the spirit of Hong Kong's constitutional principle known as "one country, two systems.
The legislators in the centered of the crisis, Sixtus "Baggio" Leung and and Yau Wai-ching, were elected to the Legislative Council in September. They are both the products of the 2014 pro-independence uprising in Hong Kong that paralyzed the semi-autonomous city for several weeks.
On October 12, they set off the chain of events by declaring allegiance to the "Hong Kong Nation", not to the Basic Law, which is the Hong Kong's constitution.
Thousands of people marched in Hong Kong on Sunday, protesting against China's move to and stem the tide of the city's efforts to preserve the freedoms that mainland Chinese don't enjoy.
When the British handed back Hong Kong to the Chinese in 1997 Beijing had promised to hold direct elections under universal suffrage in the city by 2017.
However, in 2014, China said it will continue to have a system under which the chief executive is elected from a list of two or three candidates finalized by a pro-Beijing nominating committee.
This triggered the democracy campaign in which thousands of protesters 'occupied' the streets for weeks on end.