The Bar Association said on Wednesday that a High Court ruling affirming the power of election officials to bar would-be candidates has introduced political screening into the city's electoral process.
The association said it was particularly worrying that civil servants can now conduct a "closed door inquiry" to interpret and administer the "vague and imprecise" requirement that candidates have the intention of upholding the Basic Law.
In a statement, the barristers said the court's confirmation that this requirement is substantive means returning officers will have to "inquire into a candidate’s personal and political beliefs" in order to confirm the validity of a nomination.
This, the association said, "regrettably is equivalent to the introduction of a political screening process for any prospective candidate, and there is no fair, open, certain and clear procedure to regulate this process."
The association did welcome the part of Tuesday's judgement which made it clear that a candidate to be banned over fears they would not uphold the Basic Law must be given a chance to be heard before their right to stand is revoked.
But it light of this clarification, the association said it was concerned about the decision to prevent Demosisto's Agnes Chow from running in next month's Legco by-elections, after she was apparently not afforded an opportunity to defend herself.
"The Hong Kong Bar Association is also concerned about the disqualification of a candidate to stand for election on the basis of his or her association with a political party or the holding of certain political beliefs", the statement added.
Chow was barred from the March 11 polls because her Demosisto party calls for self-determination for Hong Kong people, while the High Court ruling followed a petition by independence advocate Chan Ho-tin, who was disqualified from the 2016 Legco elections.