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Hong Kong localism and independence

No independence in 1,000 years for Hong Kong, Beijing legal expert declares

Wang Zhenmin says those advocating city’s separation from China are acting out of fear that the mainland’s success is eclipsing the city’s

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 10:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 9:43am

Hong Kong is ill and needs medication, the legal head of Beijing’s liaison office in the city said yesterday, as he spoke of “heartbreak” caused by growing talk of independence, which he ruled out for “1,000 years and forever”.

Wang Zhenmin said those advocating Hong Kong’s separation from China were acting out of fear that the mainland’s success was eclipsing the city’s.

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Asked whether his office had interfered in Hong Kong’s recent legislative elections, he said it was concerned with the polls but had never acted outside the law.

At a luncheon hosted by the Asia-Pacific Law Association on Thursday, the Basic Law expert did not mince words.

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“Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability is largely because of the motherland,” he said. “Some people then think that now the motherland is developing well, Hong Kong will go downhill.

“It is heartbreaking to see some people going for extreme means to destroy Hong Kong.”

He went on to declare that Hong Kong would remain a part of China “for 1,000 years and forever” and that no one could break them apart.

Describing the city and the motherland as a unified body, he said Hong Kong had “caught a cold and got sick” and that both sides required medication.

It is heartbreaking to see some people going for extreme means to destroy Hong Kong
Wang Zhenmin

The city should continue to serve as a role model for the country’s economic and democratic development along with the rule of law, he said.

“If the 7.3 million people in Hong Kong mess up democracy and only bring extremism, violence and separatism, how can the 1.4 billion people on the mainland pursue democracy without fear?”

In April, Wang raised eyebrows by warning that those who discussed independence for Hong Kong in a “large-scale” setting were not only violating the Basic Law, but could also be committing “treason” and “sedition” under existing criminal laws.

Wang on Thursday also said he was open to discussing whether the “one country, two systems” principle should continue beyond its expiry date in 2047, but he would personally prefer maintaining the status quo.

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But he said “no way” to calls for the right to self-determination, noting there was nothing in local legislation to justify holding a referendum to determine the city’s political future, as some new local lawmakers have suggested.

Localist lawmaker-elect Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang, who advocates self-determination, dismissed Wang’s take on the rise of separatism as “laughable”. “When we discuss the question of independence, we are driven by the invisible hand from the Communist Party that is meddling with our rights and freedoms,” Leung said. “It has nothing to do with China’s economic strength.”

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Wang also responded to allegations that his office had interfered in the city’s elections by controlling the voter-mobilising strategies of the pro-government camp and by dissuading some candidates from running.

“Many countries are highly concerned about Hong Kong elections, and some countries, including their agencies here, even interfered in them deeply,” he said. “Shouldn’t our central government get concerned [given the situation]? ... If [it] doesn’t care, I won’t feel it’s right.”

But the liaison office would only act within the law, he added.