The Secretary for Mainland and Constitutional Affairs, Erick Tsang, has said planned primary polls by the pro-democracy camp might violate the elections ordinance and the national security law.
In an interview with Oriental Daily published on Thursday, Tsang said that relevant authorities are investigating after receiving complaints.
He said many people have complained that the polls were allegedly aimed at manipulating and interfering with the Legco election, and added that some candidates vowed to veto the government's budget to paralyse the administration.
Tsang said that those who take part in organising, planning, or participating in the primary elections may violate articles 20, 22, and 29 of the security law. These sections concern secession, subversion, and collusion with a foreign country.
Tsang's comments come ahead of planned primaries by the pan-democrat camp due to be held on Saturday and Sunday.
Legal scholar Benny Tai, who organised the primary elections, posted on social media that the pledge to veto government's budget is a constitutional power enshrined in the Basic Law and does not constitute "illegal means" under the national security law. He added that the planned primaries do not involve advocating separating Hong Kong from China.
He also said that funds for the primary elections to take place came from local crowdfunding and that none of their funding sources came from overseas organisations or institutions, therefore any volunteers or Hong Kong residents taking part in the primaries should not be in violation of the national security law.
"The national security law is the law of mainland China, and the provisions may not be interpreted according to common sense," Tai said.
"If Secretary Tsang arbitrarily interprets provisions of the national security law in response to political needs, it is possible to draw very ridiculous conclusions, and even a civil referendum could be considered a violation of the national security law."