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POLITICS

Fury in Hong Kong at Beijing official's claim of 'foreign interference'

Beijing official's allegation that 'external powers' help to co-ordinate campaigns for opposition parties in city called 'hollower than hollow'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 10:25am
 

A top mainland official in charge of Hong Kong affairs has lashed out at interference by "external powers" in Hong Kong elections, alleging for the first time that the unspecified powers were helping co-ordinate campaigns for opposition parties.

Zhang Xiaoming, a deputy director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said "necessary measures" were needed to combat such interference and called for Hong Kong to pass the national security law required by Article 23 of the Basic Law.

His words, in an article published yesterday in the pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po, sparked alarm among pan-democrats, who said it could indicate a harder line by Beijing towards dissent in the city.

Zhang wrote that the "external powers" "even get deeply involved in local elections and help co-ordinating campaigns for opposition parties. We have to take necessary measures to prevent external interference."

Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit, describing the allegation as "hollower than hollow", said: "It is the most irresponsible way to make an allegation, because there is no evidence. We only have evidence of how the [central government] liaison office meddles with the elections."

Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said "external interference" had long referred to Britain and the US. But the definition had expanded in recent years to include Taiwan and Chinese dissidents in exile.

The 6,000-word article, "Enrich the implementation of One Country Two Systems" was a chapter in a study guide to the report of the 18th party congress in Beijing last week.

In it, Zhang said Hong Kong should complete the Article 23 legislation "in due course".

He added that any referendum campaigns and the Hong Kong City-State Autonomy Movement were in breach of the "one country" part of "one country, two systems".

He also insisted that the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress had legitimate power to interpret the Basic Law, a view echoed by the former Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie. The committee should also take up its role to monitor Hong Kong's legislation, Zhang said.

Leong said the article shed light on the central government's changing policy in Hong Kong. "What Zhang said is not only unconstitutional but also immoral," he said. "If it had been said before 1997, I would bet Hong Kong's transition would not have been as smooth as it was."

Another pan-democrat, Lee Cheuk-yan, said he feared the central government had been ill-advised on Hong Kong affairs. "A hardline approach can now be expected," Lee said.

The Democratic Party's acting chairwoman, Emily Lau Wai-hing, said Zhang was twisting the facts. "Hong Kong people are furious at Beijing's interference in the city's internal affairs," she said.

Beijing-loyalist lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said some recent developments in Hong Kong, such as protesters raising the colonial Hong Kong flag, might have struck a nerve in Beijing on the issue of sovereignty.

"Zhang's message could be a warning to some Hong Kong people," he said. "Overseas influences have long existed in the city. But the article shows Beijing is not going to tolerate any more."

Separately, former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang said Hong Kong was enduring the worst atmosphere since the handover. She said Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had failed to maintain meritocracy in his appointments of senior officials and top advisers.

"I could only shake my head at what [Central Policy Unit head] Shiu Sin-por said," she said. "He seems to think he is a loyal servant of the Chief Executive and to forget he is employed as a civil servant."

The recruitment of Sophia Kao Ching-chi by the unit to co-ordinate appointments to government advisory and statutory bodies was also a bad move, she said. "I wonder whether the government wants to hear merely one voice, which is to support the administration," she said.

Correction: the comment quoted in the 11th paragraph was by Alan Leong Kah-kit, not Elsie Leung Oi-sie. 

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This article is now closed to comments

shouken
Who cares about freedom and the right to vote, except ideologues? Those who immigrate to Canada, US, Australia, go there to vote and exercise their freedom of speech? Bullshxt!
Camel
Let's put it in this way. When HK is going down, the first ones leaving the sinking ship are the ones, with the "British Nationality", the foreigners, the ones who shouted the loudest for independence. To stick together in good and in bad times? wrong, we experienced in the past several years after 97 that it wasn't this way. In good times, they tent to complain and to shout and protest. In bad times, they are leaving.
rosssuz
So typical of the Central Government....when it does not like a situation, it blames so-called external influences. This continued behavior only highlights the continued lack of political development in mainland China...and, in the global arena, the behavior demonstrates the Central Government's unwillingness to listen to the people giving it the appearance that it is not a responsible stakeholder.
lucifer
Considering the several million HK residents whip hold British Nationality, the fact that hundreds of thousands of government workers served for the British government and military, that hundreds of thousands of permanent resident foreigners reside in Hong Kong and are allowed to vote, and that employment in the government or elected office is not limited to Chinese (except CE), it seems completely ridiculous to complain about foreign influence in Hong Kong. What did they think Hong KOng was going to become after the agreement of the joint-d
declaration?
i think this has more to how with the mainland authorities not being used to freedom of expression, peaceful protest, the free flow of information, and the absence of a propaganda department to steer people's thoughts…..but then again, like most issue they face, they feel they are are empowered buy their intransigence….
Hong Kong belongs to the people of Hong Kong, that much is clear.
caractacus
What next, a Hong Kong version of the burning of the Reichstag?
spunkyjj
I suppose what one does when faced with blatant intimidation is a personal choice. Some people may choose to submit (such as paying protection money when threatened by thugs). But many may choose to be brave and to stand up for their legitimate rights. Besides, there is no assurance that Hongkongers will fare better if they kowtow to China. So, Hongkongers might as well be themselves and live with dignity. Will the sky fall on our head as a consequence? I don't think so.
100%HK
spunkyjj: Well said, I believe that most of us will rise to the occasion. Some will not and will run in fear, but cowards don't have much to offer anyway.
Camel
@sunny
I see you still living in the past and judgement bases on the past. The now Central Government is much more sophisticated and professional than 3 decades ago. Furthermore, do you really think they give a sh..t on how the world is judging them if it comes to internal policies? 89 was an incident where the world said "never we want to have something to do with China again". And now? "Never say never". Welcome to the 21th Century. There a ways how to teach HK lessons as for example economic support, crossborder policies an financial assistances, but I am not expecting you to understand these as for this one needs further education and not base knowledge from the past. HK would be a dead city already if it weren't for the Mainland and the Central Government policies to support this city. Things you guys don't understand but anyway, you are great in throwing great hollow sentences until you hit hard rock bottom.
mymak
Camel at 3:35pm probably makes the best point. To take it a step further. When we go and visit our relatives in Guangdong they are concerned more with day-to-day matters. China has some major problems to face brought about by a liberalisation of the economy and society in general. Many of our older relatives (in their 50s) have been forced into early retirement with the demise of state-run industries. They do not turn to the easiest target and blame the Government for all of their problems. Do you know their is massive unemployment in China as a result of the Gov't attempting to improve the living standards of everyone? This is inevitable when you move from a Command economy to a market-led economy. Say what you will about the Gov't but they are trying to improve the lot of ordinary people. Personally I don't like the Gov't at the moment but that is probably because I am a little to the left of them in ideology.
The point I am trying to make is that Camel is right in saying that Brit flag wavers are idiots and trouble makers. China has huge problems to overcome and did not ask to be embroiled in what in the context of the country as a whole is a petty problem. But now that they are aware of it they will act and not softly as Camel says.
req
Hey! There's a personal attack! See how some people with low intellect resort to personal attacks! Where's that d*mned report button?

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