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Legislative Council elections 2016

Pushing for Hong Kong independence is political suicide, former financial chief Antony Leung says

On the eve of elections, Antony Leung urges people to avoid voting on impulse and stresses need to improve relations between executive and legislature

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 September, 2016, 7:10pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 September, 2016, 11:27pm

Former financial chief Antony Leung Kam-chung has said any attempt to seek independence for Hong Kong from the rest of China would be political suicide, as he questioned whether certain government policies had incited trouble between Hongkongers and mainlanders.

Leung made the remarks on the eve of Sunday’s Legislative Council elections as he urged people to think carefully before voting.

Voicing concerns about livelihood issues getting caught up in political wrangling between lawmakers, the former Hong Kong financial secretary said it was important to improve relations between the executive and the legislature, and he urged voters to elect candidates who could bring “harmony” to Legco.

Former finance minister gives mixed signals on joining Hong Kong’s chief executive race

Leung said some local policies handing Hongkongers priority over mainlanders might have deepened conflicts between the two groups. As an example he cited the limits imposed on visiting mainlanders buying infant formula to ensure an ample supply for local mothers, and said future policymakers had to tackle rifts created by such moves.

“Other people are likely to reciprocate if we overemphasise that we will prioritise the needs of Hong Kong people,” he said.

Though he noted many people were fed up with the current administration, he urged them to refrain from voting on impulse.

“We have to take Hong Kong’s long-term interest into consideration,” he said. “Hong Kong independence is impractical.”

The government should be more open-minded ... After all, the way young people think is different from that of the older generation
Antony Leung Kam-chung

But he also questioned the government’s approach to handling pro-independence sentiment among many young people. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has condemned such rhetoric since last year.

Sing Pao newspaper, known for its conservative editorial policy, raised eyebrows on Tuesday with a full-page commentary accusing the chief executive of indirectly ­encouraging Hong Kong independence talk by making a series of high-profile attacks against advocates.

“The government should be more open-minded ... After all, the way young people think is different from that of the older generation,” Antony Leung said.

But he declined to say whether it was appropriate for the electoral authorities to disqualify Legco candidates for promoting independence.

“[Returning officers] had legal grounds,” Leung said of the procedure requiring poll aspirants to declare that Hong Kong was an inalienable part of China.

Watch: Legco elections explained in three minutes

In an extensive interview with the Post last November, Leung said he had no plans to run for chief executive because being the city’s leader was too difficult a task. In Saturday’s interview, he would not say if he would run for the top job.

“I want to focus on discussing the Sunday elections ... I don’t want to be seen as seeking political mileage,” he said.

Meanwhile, Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu has played down the chief executive’s alleged role in fanning the flames of pro-independence sentiment.

People had been discussing Hong Kong’s independence since 2010, before Leung was sworn in as chief executive in 2012, Tam said.

For a full list of Legislative Council election candidates, please click here.