Hong Kong youth warned off ideas about separatism
Head of liaison office for Beijing says kids must learn city’s place in the greater nation
Young people should guard against separatist ideas and learn the correct relationship between the city and the country, Beijing’s top official in Hong Kong said.
The remarks by Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, came after the central government’s third-highest-ranking official, National People’s Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang, called for the strengthening of national education for young people in Hong Kong last month.
Speaking at the launch on Tuesday of a series of youth programmes organised by Beijing-loyalist groups, Zhang said: “There is a tide of separatist ideas in Hong Kong. As some young people are being misled by these thoughts, I have to stress that there is a need to correctly learn the relation between Hong Kong and the nation.”
He said understanding the nation’s history and culture would help young people capitalise on Hong Kong’s strategic position and realise their ambitions.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the state-run China News Agency, Elsie Leung Oi-sie, the former Hong Kong justice secretary and now vice-chair of the Basic Law Committee, said the mini-constitution had been faced with “new situations and new problems” in recent years.
But she said this was “not surprising” as the Basic Law was still “young”, and that the implementation of the blueprint had been successful over the past 20 years.
“But there are some people who do not understand the Basic Law and there are also some who choose not to understand or accept it,” she said, referring to calls for local independence.
Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semi-official think tank, said Beijing wanted to see national education launched in the city so more students would identify themselves as Chinese.
But he said taking legal steps would be a more practical way to stop the spread of separatist ideas in the short run, to show the independence advocates that any attempts to separate Hong Kong from the country would not be in their interests.
Zhu Jie, a Hong Kong affairs specialist from Wuhan University, agreed that immediate measures had to be taken to stop separatism from spreading, although he said there were only a few advocates for it at the moment.
But education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen questioned defining the “correct relationship” between the city and nation.
“We should not force students to accept a single conclusion, but should encourage them to view the issues from multiple angles with complete knowledge, and draw their own independent views.”