Beijing's Global Times labels HK autonomy group 'pro-independence'

State newspaper article equates organisation with separatists in restive regions like Tibet

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2012, 3:31am

The state-run Global Times newspaper yesterday accused a group promoting Hong Kong autonomy as being "pro-independence", in another attack against organisations in the city who oppose mainland interference in local affairs.

The label apparently equated the Hong Kong City-State Autonomy Movement with separatist groups in some of China's more restive regions, including Tibet and Xinjiang, and also in Taiwan.

It implied the group was potentially secessionist.

The Chinese-language article, published yesterday in the newspaper known for its hardline stance, read: "According to investigations by Global Times reporters, certain 'pro-Hong Kong-independence' organisations do exist in Hong Kong at present."

The sentence was followed by a paragraph detailing information apparently given by a Mr Lau, whom the paper identified as the spokesman of HKAM.

However, the group's spokesman, Vincent Lau, told the South China Morning Post that the Global Times article carried "misinterpretations".

"No reporters from the Global Times had ever approached the group, either through Facebook nor e-mails or phone calls.

He said HKAM was asking only for mainland authorities to stop interfering in the city's affairs. "We have never regarded ourselves as advocating independence for Hong Kong."

Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said: "[Beijing loyalists] want to destroy at infancy voices asking for de-Sinofication, separating Hongkongers and [mainland] Chinese."

The Post reported this month that online support for HKAM had more than doubled in the past four months. But Ma said that as the authorities had yet to even discuss the matter of de-Sinofication in Hong Kong, the central government should not be "frightened".

Chen Zuoer, former deputy director of Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, had said last week that "the rise of a pro-independence force is spreading like a virus".

On Sunday, Lew Mon-hung, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate, suggested that such calls for autonomy should be seen as treason and banned.

Meanwhile, nearly 40 per cent of schools did not hold a flag-raising ceremony during the National Day celebrations, a study by a pro-Beijing body found.

The Federation of Education Workers also found that teachers were jittery about discussing national affairs after recent disputes that ended in the national education curriculum being shelved.

In 2010, the group said, only 25 per cent of schools refrained from raising the flag.