There is no need to ban calls for Hong Kong autonomy if proponents do not take action to split the city from Beijing rule, political heavyweight Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai says.
Fan said most Hongkongers did not support calls for independence or greater autonomy. They enjoyed freedom of speech and there was no need to forbid such comments.
Fan weighed in yesterday after Lew Mon-hung, a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, suggested that such calls should be seen as treason and be banned under Article 23 of the Basic Law, which requires Hong Kong to pass a national-security law to prohibit acts of treason, secession, sedition or subversion against Chinese rule.
"Talking about the advocacy of Hong Kong's independence does not mean there will be actual action," Fan said. "Even if one day [the national security law] is legislated, I do not think anyone should be charged just for speaking out."
Anti-mainland sentiments have prompted the recent emergence of movements seeking to safeguard Hong Kong's autonomy under "one country, two systems". A few have suggested the city should be independent.
The Hong Kong City-State Autonomy Movement uses a colonial emblem on its flag: the city's old coat of arms, showing a Chinese dragon and British lion.
Lew said on Sunday such views were "frantic" and should be banned.
"Based on Article 23, someone advocating Hong Kong independence may have committed treason," he said. "It is OK to criticise government policy or feel unhappy about the Communist Party, but they cannot object to their identity as Chinese people."