Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Thousands turn out to decry Hong Kong independence

Marchers take to streets day after Beijing’s top man in city slams ‘blasphemy’ in Legco oath-taking

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 12:24am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 1:12am

Opponents of Hong Kong independence staged a show of force yesterday as thousands of people took to the streets around the ­government headquarters in one of the largest rallies of its kind in recent years.

The demonstration, which ­organisers said was attended by more than 40,000 people, followed a withering attack on separatism by Beijing’s top man in the city, Zhang Xiaoming, who upped the ante in the controversy over the Legislative Council oath- taking saga.

Zhang accused localist lawmakers of “blasphemy” against the oaths and of treating the wider Hong Kong community like ­“idiots”.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also warned in a rare interview with Xinhua that his government would not allow ­independence advocates to “appear in the city’s political system”, including the Legislative Council and civil service, or to spread their ideas in schools.

Leung also hinted that he would seek re-election, as he claimed that he had achieved much of his election promises four years ago, and now Hong Kong “needs to continue with the work” he started.

At the rally outside the Legco complex in Admiralty yesterday, protesters also voiced their ­support for Beijing’s ruling last week that lawmakers who failed to take the Legislative Council oath “sincerely” would face ­disqualification.

The rally’s organiser, the Anti-Hong Kong Independence Alliance, said more than 40,000 attended the rally .

The police said the turnout peaked at 28,500.

Controversy first erupted on October 12 when Younspiration duo Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching swore ­allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation” and mimicked a derogatory term used by the Japanese during wartime to insult China during their oath-taking.

Their actions prompted China’s top legislative body to issue a ruling on November 7 that stated lawmakers would face instant disqualification for failing to take their oaths when being sworn in “sincerely”.

Mok Ka-kit, a student at City University, applied for a judicial review in the High Court last month over the legality of the oaths taken by the Youngspiration pair. Speaking at the rally in Admiralty yesterday, Mok vowed to ­revise his writ to challenge the legality of other democratic lawmakers, who chanted slogans after finishing their oaths.

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Attending the rally, Tin Shui Wai resident Mr Cheng, 72, said: “I was born during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, I was very angry about [Baggio Leung and Yau] ... I think those lawmakers who shouted slogans should be disqualified too.”

Another attendee, who only identified himself as Mr Cheung, said he brought along his son “to let him know that Hong Kong must be governed in accordance with law”.

The alliance organiser Stanley Ng Chau-pei said the rally “showed the world that we are determined to safeguard territorial integrity”.

He added that there were over 10,000 people who could not attend the rally because the venue was too crowded.

The demonstration came a day after Zhang spoke at the Beijing-friendly Pui Kiu Middle School’s 70th anniversary dinner in Wan Chai on Saturday.

The dinner was closed to media, but according to a copy of the speech released on the central government’s liaison office’s website, Zhang addressed the topic of “lawmakers-elect who publicly advocated Hong Kong independence”.

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“Unless they are assuming all people are idiots, they could not deny that they went against the procedure and blasphemed the oath’s content,” he said.

He described the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress as taking “necessary action in accordance with law and its responsibility”.

On Friday, President Xi Jinping called for national unity in a strongly worded speech, vowing to oppose separatism in any form and taking aim at Taiwan and independence sentiment in Hong Kong.

“We will never allow anyone, any organisation, any party to split off any tract of territory from China any time, or in any way,” Xi said.

Zhang said Xi’s speech was to date “the sternest warning against separatist forces in Taiwan and Hong Kong”.

The senior official said the oath-taking controversy as well as some Hongkongers’ opposition to the Basic Law were reminders that “we need to pay attention to the issue of patriotic education in schools”.

Additional reporting by Nikki Sun