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China's 'Two Sessions' 2016

Hong Kong independence ‘impossible’, says Beijing legal official

Former Basic Law Committee chairman Qiao Xiaoyang rules out any such move in reaction to article in University of Hong Kong student magazine Undergrad, which argued for independence after 2047

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2016, 9:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 March, 2016, 2:10pm

A senior legal official from Beijing has completely dismissed escalating calls from some Hongkongers to turn the Chinese territory into an independent sovereign state in 2047.

“It’s impossible,” Qiao Xiaoyang, head of the National People’s Congress Law Committee, said of the suggestion. “How would it be possible?”

Qiao, a former Basic Law Committee chairman, was speaking on the sidelines of the “two sessions” in the capital.

The comments came after an article in the latest issue of the University of Hong Kong student magazine Undergrad proposed that Hong Kong become a sovereign state recognised by the UN in 2047.

The article argued for the city’s independence on the expiry of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which stipulates that Hong Kong should remain unchanged for 50 years after the 1997 handover.

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“Even though Hong Kong doesn’t have the conditions to become independent yet ... whether independence is viable or not is not our main concern,” it read.

“The main point is whether Hong Kong should become independent.”

On Wednesday, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung also poured cold water on the students’ suggestion, though he added it was “a good thing to discuss Hong Kong’s future development”.

“I can’t see why ‘one country, two systems’ needs any changes,” Yuen, an HKU law graduate, said.

“The [students] seem to be exploring directions to achieve democracy.

“If so, I would suggest … improving along the line of ‘one country, two systems’.”

Such an approach, he added, would be “more pragmatic” and a “possible” way to turn Hong Kong democratic.

Commenting on the subject, executive councillor Bernard Chan offered another legal point.

“While the Basic Law does not state whether ‘two systems’ should be kept in 2047, it does state clearly ‘one country’ lasts forever,” he said. “The central government would definitely not allow other options.”

Chan said trust had to be built with those young people hostile to Beijing, adding: “Students need to better understand the Basic Law.”

While he addressed the Undergrad article’s proposal a day earlier, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying did not talk about engaging the students, but stressed it was “common sense” that Hong Kong would continue to be a part of China after 2047, as it had always been “since ancient times”.

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The future of Hong Kong beyond 2047 has become a topic of debate with the rise of anti-mainland sentiment among the city’s youth, who say Hong Kong’s autonomy has gradually been eroded in the face of China’s ever-strengthening political influence.

Separately in Hong Kong, the Civic Party also announced its 10th anniversary manifesto, which placed significant emphasis on being “local, autonomous and pluralistic”.

The manifesto said the party used to believe dialogue with Beijing would help, but was now disappointed by the implementation of “one country, two systems” that had “begun to go out of shape”, thanks to the “invincible hand of the Chinese authorities”.

“Today, as we face the precarious future of this place we call home, we are left with no choice but to stand firmly by our fellow citizens in their struggle to rethink the possibilities of this city,” the manifesto read.

It added that the party would take part in civil disobedience if necessary.

Reiterating his stance against independence, party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit would not however rule out options being floated by others as he said his party believed in the importance of diversity.