Hong Kong localism and independence

Mainland paper slams Hong Kong independence advocates in 1,000-word commentary

People’s Daily article entitled “Hong Kong independence a harm to the city and must not be tolerated” was published on Thursday

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 November, 2016, 12:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 November, 2016, 4:05pm

Hong Kong independence advocates have not only hurt the sentiment of China’s population but the whole Chinese race around the world and must be punished by law, a commentary by the People’s Daily has said as the Beijing-controlled newspaper stepped up its attack against two localist lawmakers amid the oath-taking row.

While similar commentaries were regularly published in the overseas edition of People’s Daily, the 1,000-word article, titled “Hong Kong independence a harm to the city and must not be tolerated”, appeared in the mainland print version on Thursday.

Without naming names, the article slammed the behaviour of some “newly elected lawmakers” by promoting independence during the oath-taking ceremony.

“Their acts have seriously violated the bottom line of ‘one country, two systems’, the national constitution, the Basic Law and relevant provisions in Hong Kong,” it read.

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“Such rhetoric has always been treated by mainstream opinion in the city as a joke, a farce and a lunatic’s dream. But certain people – out of unspeakable political motives – resist one country and the central government ... and promote separatism under the disguise of localism ... and even collude with Taiwanese independence forces.”

While anti-government protesters have long cried foul over Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong matters as eroding the city’s core values and the rule of law, the commentary argued the harm was in fact caused by independence calls.

“In a society known for its stringent rule of law, if we tolerate such independence calls, it would certainly deal a blow to Hong Kong’s core values and rule of law, with the negative impact hard to quantify,” it lashed out at the independence champions.

While the writer called on authorities to handle the issue with the Basic Law and maintain its integrity, it stopped short of mentioning a possible interpretation of the mini constitution by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

“The central government has unswervingly maintained its ‘one country, two systems’ policy 19 years after the handover, fully exercising tolerance and restraint when handling Hong Kong matters. But on issues involving national interests, it will not just sit and let the problem grow,” it warned.

At least seven articles have been published in various editions of People’s Daily since the oath-taking controversy broke out last month, with each piece taking a stronger stance as the incident developed.

The latest article echoed comments made by Beijing’s Hong Kong liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming on Tuesday, saying the words of the localist lawmakers had crossed the bottom line of the “one country two systems” and seriously violated the country’s constitution and the Basic Law.

“Any calls and actions advocating the Hong Kong independence must be sanctioned by the laws,” he said.

On October 12, Youngspiration lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang swore allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation” and pronounced China as “Chee-na” – mimicking the offensive term “Shina” used by the Japanese during war time – while swearing in at the Legislative Council. Their oaths have since been invalidated.

On the possibility of an interpretation of the Basic Law by Beijing’s top political body, Bar Association chairwoman Winnie Tam Wan-chi said she was shocked to hear the development as there was no such indication during a meeting with Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei last week.

Speaking on radio on Thursday, she also gave her backing to Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, saying he held the same opinion as the legal sector – that an interpretation was unnecessary.

Tam also felt the matter would not be solved even if Yuen tendered his resignation.

She reiterated that an interpretation from Beijing would give Hongkongers the impression that the matter could not be settled in the court, tarnishing the judicial system’s integrity.

“The worst case scenario though would be the Standing Committee overturning the court’s decision by issuing a contradicting verdict after judges make their ruling,” she added.