On 8 February during the 2016 Chinese New Year holidays, the Mong Kok civil unrest broke out between police and protesters following the government's crackdown on unlicensed street hawkers. Batons and pepper spray were used by the police and two warning shots were fired into the air, while protesters threw glass bottles, bricks, flower pots and trash bins toward the police and set fires in the streets. The main participant in the event, Hong Kong Indigenous, a political group with pro-independence tendencies, was branded by Director of the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong Zhang Xiaoming as "radical separatists" who were "inclined toward terrorism."
Hong Kong National Party, the first party openly advocating for Hong Kong independence and a Republic of Hong Kong was established on 28 March 2016, drawing attacks from the Beijing and SAR governments. The State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office issued a statement condemning the party, saying it "has harmed the country’s sovereignty, security, endangered the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and the core interests of Hong Kong..."
Demosistō, a political party mainly led by the former student leaders such as Joshua Wong and Nathan Law in the 2014 Occupy protests established on 10 April 2016, advocated a referendum to determine Hong Kong's sovereignty after 2047, when the "One Country, Two Systems" principle as promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Hong Kong Basic Law is supposed to expire.
In the 2016 Legislative Council election, six pro-independence activists were disqualified, including Hong Kong Indigenous' Edward Leung and Hong Kong National Party's Chan Ho-tin, by the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC), in which the government argued that their pro-independence stances did not comply with the Basic Law Article 1 which stated that Hong Kong being an inalienable part of China and Legislative Council Ordinance (Cap. 542) § 40 which required all candidates to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Their oaths were invalidated by the LegCo secretary-general Kenneth Chen and were subsequently challenged by the government in the court. On 7 November 2016, the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) interpreted the Article 104 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong to "clarify" the provision of the legislators to swear allegiance to Hong Kong as part of China when they take office. The spokesman of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office stated that "[Beijing] will absolutely neither permit anyone advocating secession in Hong Kong nor allow any pro-independence activists to enter a government institution."