Outcry over mainland official's stand on National Day events after 1997
By LINDA CHOY in Beijing and LOUIS WON
CELEBRATION of Taiwan's National Day should be illegal in Hong Kong after 1997, a senior Chinese official said yesterday.
Both public and private celebrations of the Double Tenth festival should be banned, said Xinhua (New China News Agency) official Weng Xinqiao.
'When we say 'one country, two systems', we do not mean only the adopting of two different social systems [in the mainland and Hong Kong], but we also mean the upholding of the one country principle,' the Hong Kong-based official said on arrival in Beijing.
The Nationalist flag should be banned unless it was hoisted in the name of the anniversary of the 1911 Revolution, he said.
The Special Administrative Region should consider introducing laws to ban celebrations of the founding of a 'second China', he said.
Mr Weng, the Hong Kong-based head of Xinhua's Cultural and Education Department, is in Beijing to attend a Preliminary Working Committee sub-group meeting.
His comments drew immediate criticism in Hong Kong.
Democratic Party legislator Cheung Man-kwong said any such laws would violate freedom of speech.
Mr Cheung said that Mr Weng's remarks reflected a failure to understand the political reality that there were two powers on the Taiwan Strait.
'People should be allowed to express their support for either of the powers on either side of the strait as long as their activities are not against the law,' he said.
Mr Cheung said peaceful unification of China would not be helped by suppression of the activities of pro-Taiwan forces in Hong Kong.
'Although there are people who want to fly the Nationalist flag and celebrate the Double Tenth, it doesn't necessarily mean they deny there is one China,' he said.
Mr Weng's comments followed controversy over the Urban Council's decision to allow a pro-Taipei group to celebrate the National Day today at the Cultural Centre.
China condemned the decision as violating the one-China policy and issued diplomatic protests to the British and Hong Kong governments.
Yesterday, Taiwan's top representative in Hong Kong, John Ni Chang-i, welcomed the Urban Council's decision.
After officiating at a flag-hoisting ceremony at Rennie's Mill, Mr Ni said the pro-Taipei Chinese Cultural Association had gone through the proper procedures to rent the hall.
Hong Kong was a community with the rule of law and allowing the pro-Taipei association to hold the celebration at the Cultural Centre would also help implement the concept of one country, two systems, he said.
Director of Urban Services Albert Lam Chi-chiu said the pro-Taipei association was a legal organisation and the Government did not have the right to reject for political reasons an application to rent the premises.
Chairman of the Urban Council Dr Ronald Leung Ding-bong said the council would review the matter.
The council would try to listen to different views and would try to make a more balanced decision in future, he said.