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Hong Kong localism and independence

Chinese government rebukes US over comments on Hong Kong removal of legislators-elect

Beijing responds to published comments by Joshua Wong during activist’s visit to Washington

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 November, 2016, 2:58pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 November, 2016, 11:45pm

The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s representative in Hong Kong has hit back at comments by the United States government on the disqualification of two pro-independence lawmakers in the city, saying foreign governments must not interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

The rebuke came as the ministry criticised one of the city’s most recognised pro-democracy activists, Joshua Wong Chi-fung, for penning an opinion piece with a fellow activist in the Wall Street Journal just days earlier calling on Hongkongers to fight for the right to self-determination.

Responding on Tuesday to the High Court’s disqualification of two lawmakers-elect who used derogatory language to insult China during their oath-taking, State Department’s press office director Elizabeth Trudeau said: “We believe that the Chinese and the Hong Kong governments and all elected politicians in Hong Kong should refrain from any actions that fuel concern or undermine confidence in the ‘one country, two systems’ principle.

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“The United States strongly supports and values Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and independent judiciary, two institutions that play a critically important role in promoting and protecting the special administrative region’s high degree of autonomy.”

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry commissioner’s office in Hong Kong stressed that “Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs”.

“We firmly oppose any foreign government interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any way, undermining Hong Kong’s rule of law,” it said.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal on November 9, Joshua Wong and Jeffrey Ngo, a master’s student in history at New York University, wrote that “It’s time to advance our struggle to achieving the right to self-determination rather than mere universal suffrage under Chinese rule.”

“The people of Hong Kong must challenge the legitimacy of our existing constitution,” they wrote.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry commissioner’s office in Hong Kong wrote to the paper on Wednesday, saying the two writers were openly advocating Hong Kong independence.

The spokesman added that it was “totally absurd and ignorant” to say the city had the right to self-determination as it is Chinese territory.”

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“It is gravely wrong and dangerous to claim that Hong Kong is not part of China, and challenge the country’s sovereignty by advocating ‘self-determination’ and independence,” the spokesman wrote.

Wong who is visiting Washington, has called on president-elect Donald Trump to keep an eye on human rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.

He also spoke at an event on Wednesday organised by a US congressional panel that monitors human rights in China, where he met the likes of Senator Marco Rubio, the commission’s co-chairman.

Senators Rubio and Tom Cotton sponsored legislation that would punish Hong Kong or mainland officials who suppressed basic freedoms in the city. But the legislation is unlikely to become US law before the congressional term ends.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government also urged “foreign parties” not to interfere in the internal affairs of Hong Kong after a section in a US congressional panel report cited an “alarming” rise in the mainland’s interference in the city’s affairs, raising questions about the city’s role as a global financial hub.

The report cited cases such as the Causeway Bay booksellers saga, in which mainland officials apparently abducted five booksellers.

The Hong Kong government said on Wednesday that Hong Kong had been exercising a high degree of autonomy since the handover.