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"Those who do not recognise they are Chinese should look at what is written on their passports or they should renounce their Chinese nationality."
So says Lu Ping, former director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. "Our country, which has a population of 1.3 billion, would not be bothered losing this handful of people," Lu stated in an exchange of email with the South China Morning Post.
Lu made the comments when attacking people in the city who do not want to acknowledge their nationality.
Under the Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China, people can apply to renounce their nationality if they are a close relative of a foreign national, are settled abroad, or for other legitimate reasons.
Lu told the Post he noted some people had waved the British flag and held up posters calling for "Hong Kong independence" at a recent protest in the city. "They claim the only way out for Hong Kong is to become an independent nation," he said.
It was the second time Lu has commented on calls for Hong Kong independence. In a letter to the Post on October 12 he said "these guys who advocate for Hong Kong independence are sheer morons". "Deprived of support from the mainland, Hong Kong would be a dead city." Lu said it was good his remarks had triggered controversy.
Last week, Lu's former deputy, Chen Zuoer, said "the rise of a pro-independence force in Hong Kong is spreading like a virus" and should be dealt with firmly.
Yesterday, an editorial in the state-run Global Times described the notion of an independent Hong Kong as a "false proposition". It said a minority of Hongkongers had stirred up anti-mainland sentiment because they were losing their sense of superiority over mainlanders.
Dickson Cheung - the spokesman of a group that has set up a Facebook page called "We are Hongkongers, not Chinese" - had this to say in response to Lu's latest attack on those who did not want to acknowledge their Chinese nationality: "We do not even want an SAR [Special Administrative Region] passport. But what can we do?"
Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong said he did not see the emergence of a movement for independence, even though some people had waved the British flag during protests.