It may seem fanciful but a case can be made that the real victim of the decision to ban Agnes Chow Ting from standing in the upcoming Legislative Council by-election will turn out to be President Xi Jinping.

And when he discovers what those in the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office in Beijing, in the Liaison Office in Western, and in the SAR government at Tamar, have done to his reputation and standing, heads may roll.

But let me start with Demosisto and its personalities. I have met Nathan Law Kwun Chung and he struck me as a thoroughly decent young man. Any father would be proud of a son like that. I have not met Chow but from seeing her in the media she seems to be cut from the same cloth. They are clearly two of our finest young people, highly principled and passionate about Hong Kong’s future.

Putting personalities aside, the real problem with their political party, Demosisto, is that its entire policy platform is founded on two major misunderstandings. The party’s position is that the Basic Law only covers Hong Kong up to 2047, and after that there is a blank sheet of paper. Citizens here should have the right to decide their way of life thereafter through a plebiscite under the heading of self-determination. Though left unsaid, it is clear one of the options on the table at that time would be independence. This stance sounds reasonable superficially but it is fallacious. As I have pointed out before, the Basic Law has no expiry date – it is permanent legislation and stays in force until repealed or amended by the National People’s Congress.

I just cannot foresee a time when the NPC will repeal or amend Article 1, for example, which states unambiguously that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China. While it is true that the promise of no change (to the capitalist system and way of life) in Article 5 lapses after 50 years – hence the reference to 2047 – there is no concomitant commitment to swing immediately to a socialist economy and abandon our legal system or other aspects of our lifestyle.

Secondly, if there is ever a review– whether before, during, or after 2047 – of how Hong Kong should be governed then the outcome will be a matter for the 1.4 billion people of the whole of China, not just the seven million residents of our city.

But now back to the by-election. The Legco vacancy arises because Law was disqualified by the court for taking his oath of office in a manner judged inappropriate. The underlying reason for official anger is not so much Law’s performance on the day but rather the perception that lurking in the background is the aim of independence. Since Chow is committed to the same policy platform, there is a technical argument that she should not be allowed to stand for the same reason Law was kicked out. That is the route the Returning Officer, with the “help” of Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng Yeuk Wah, has chosen. But that is totally to ignore the political circumstances.

The place to argue out political issues is in the political arena not behind closed doors. And where better and at what better time than an election or by-election when everyone is focused on the matter in hand. There are many in our community who have similar misunderstandings about what options are and are not on the table for our future. The facts about the real situation need to be fully aired in public so that together we can make realistic plans. The foolish ruling has denied the whole community the opportunity of that debate.

Xi is the undisputed leader of China, the world’s most populous nation with the largest standing army and the second largest economy. He is the most powerful Chinese leader for decades, and arguably the most powerful man in the world since the United States weakened itself by electing the erratic Trump. But his subordinates have in effect told the whole world that he is frightened of a 21-year-old girl’s immature political ideas. He may never forgive them.

Mike Rowse