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Hong Kong localism and independence

Localist Yau Wai-ching apologises for ‘draft’ letter to Taiwan’s president claiming China stole New Territories

Explaining the ‘misunderstanding’, disqualified lawmaker says document published in Taiwanese daily Liberty Times was preliminary version that had already been rejected

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, 11:18am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 12:46pm

Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister yesterday warned Taiwan to stay away from the city’s affairs, after disqualified pro-independence lawmaker Yau Wai-ching apologised for causing a misunderstanding over a letter she drafted to call for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s support.

“No foreign country, official or authorities from other places should interfere with Hong Kong’s internal affairs,”Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said.

Tam was responding a day after Yau said on her Facebook page that she had planned to write to Tsai over Beijing’s recent interpretation of the Basic Law, but the letter published by Taiwanese Chinese-language daily Liberty Times was just a draft that had already been rejected by her party, Youngspiration.

The drama has added fuel to Hong Kong’s oath-taking controversy, with Yau and fellow localist Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang due in court this morning to appeal against the ruling that barred them from the Legislative Council. The High Court ruled last Tuesday that the duo should be disqualified as they “declined” to take their oaths by pledging allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation” and insulting China at their swearing-in ceremony on October 12.

In the draft, Yau questioned Beijing’s sovereignty over the New Territories, arguing that the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration should only have dealt with the sovereignty of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.

That was because the New Territories became part of colonial Hong Kong after the British and Qing empires signed a 99-year lease in 1898. Since the Qing dynasty was overthrown in 1911, and the lease is now kept in Taiwan, Taipei should explain its stance on the New Territories’ “constitutional status”, Yau urged.

She said the New Territories had been “stolen by China for 19 years” since the 1997 handover.

Yau also argued that Tsai, who is the leader of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, should show concern over the New Territories issue because there were questions over the validity of the JointDeclaration after China’s top legislative body issued its interpretation of the city’s mini-constitution on November 7.

The ruling that lawmakers who refused to take their oaths “sincerely” would be disqualified was described by Yau as a “breach of articles in the Basic Law and the Joint Declaration”.

In Articles 1 and 2 of the agreement, Beijing declared that “to recover the Hong Kong area (including Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, hereinafter referred to as Hong Kong) is the common aspiration of the entire Chinese people”, and London pledged to “restore Hong Kong” to China in 1997.

Yau clarified on Tuesday that the “letter” was in fact a draft of a message for Tsai, but she did not explain how it then appeared in the newspaper.

“I apologise if I have created misunderstanding,” she said.

Asked about the letter, a spokesman for Taiwan’s presidential office said: “Hong Kong people want reform and a choice on the life and system they want. The Chinese government should respond positively.”

Yau had called for support from London and US president-elect Donald Trump over Hong Kong’s political turmoil.

The Beijing-owned Global Times reported yesterday that “Taiwan’s presidential office said Yau’s letter would be handled by Taipei’s Mainland Affairs Council”. The tabloid quoted Shenzhen University’s Hong Kong affairs expert Zhang Dinghuai as saying: “Yau was simply trying to get ... media attention.

The tabloid quoted an academic as saying Yau was merely trying to attract attention.