Beijing’s Basic Law stand in oath saga ‘a crushing deadly blow’

Former Liaison Office chief says basic law interpretation is ‘very encouraging’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 March, 2017, 12:05am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 March, 2017, 11:00am

Beijing’s tougher stand on the Basic Law sparked by two pro-independence Hong Kong lawmakers was a like “crushing a crab to death”, the central government’s former chief representative in Hong Kong said on Thursday.

Citing a Cantonese idiom to describe high-handed suppression of opposition, Peng Qinghua, former head of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said the National People’s Congress’ interpretation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law that disqualified the two lawmakers was “very encouraging” and “efficient”.

Peng, now Guangxi’s Communist Party boss, was referring to the NPC’s controversial ­interpretation of Article 104 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution that disqualified two newly ­elected Hong Kong lawmakers who included pro-independence slogans in their oath of office.

Basic Law oath-taking interpretation a major achievement, National People's Congress head says

On the sidelines of the NPC in Beijing, Peng praised the interpretation as “a blow” to the pro-independence advocates and an effort to safeguard the “one country, two ­systems” principle. The interpretation had wider public support in Hong Kong than previous NPC interpretations, he said.

Peng said the two lawmakers’ oaths “touched the bottom line of the nation and it was time for the NPC to make the decision [to ­interpret the Basic Law]”.

He said Beijing ignored oath-taking “tricks” by other legislators, such “Long Hair” Leung kwok-hung, because they did not breach the bottom line of “Hong Kong ­independence”.

Peng’s comments came one day after NPC chairman Zhang Dejiang called the interpretation the NPC’s major achievement last year.

Wang Hongguang, a hawkish retired PLA general, said military personnel in Hong Kong would play a key role in maintaining stability if the risk of independence built. “The military’s presence in Hong Kong represents the nation … and its equipment can be used to fight wars or crack down on riots,” Wang said. “Once a riot breaks out and Hong Kong police fail to control the situation, it’s reasonable for the army to step in. That’s in­disputable.”

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With 2017 the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty, it was time to “nip the notion of Hong Kong independence in the bud”, Wang said. He also urged a rethink of Beijing’s policy on Hong Kong.

In another apparent attempt to defend the Basic Law interpretation, Zhang Rongshun, deputy head of the NPC’s legal advisory body, said it was the “most basic” requirement of a legislator or ­public servant to support the ­constitution and pledge loyalty to the nation.

He also said there would be a strict review process to decide whether candidates qualified to be Hong Kong deputies to the NPC next year under new rules requiring a pledge of allegiance to the nation and a declaration that they did not receive foreign funds.