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Hong Kong Basic Law

Hong Kong cannot develop different set of politics from China, Beijing legal expert says

Another participant at seminar in Hong Kong, Rao Geping, says Chinese officials will not enjoy full powers at express rail terminus in West Kowloon

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 7:46pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 June, 2017, 11:04pm

The legal chief of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong says Hongkongers should wake up from the “illusion” that they can develop a different set of politics from China under “one country, two systems”, declaring that “all politics is central”.

A Basic Law adviser, meanwhile, dismissed speculation that mainland Chinese officers would be empowered to enforce national laws in full at the Hong Kong terminus for the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou, saying their powers would be restricted to immigration and customs checks only.

Wang Zhenmin from the liaison office echoed No 3 state leader Zhang Dejiang, who last month said in a high-profile speech that the central government had “comprehensive” sovereignty over the city and urged Hong Kong to enact a national security law to prevent separatist movements.

Wang’s comments came a week after three localist legislators formed an alliance with a group of pro-independence counterparts from Taiwan.

Speaking at a “one country, two systems” seminar organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies on Friday, Wang said that 20 years after the handover, a small group of people in Hong Kong still had not yet accepted that the city had permanently returned to Chinese sovereignty.

“‘One country, two systems’ may have led them into this illusion that Hong Kong enjoys a great deal of power as they enjoy a high degree of autonomy,” Wang said. “But the political reality will tell them this is not feasible.”

“Hong Kong has never had independent politics. It followed Britain before the handover and it has to follow the mainland after that.”

While in federal countries political problems were solved at the local level, in a country like China, “all politics is central” according to the Chinese constitution and the Basic Law, Wang said, adding that the city had to side with the country on domestic and international issues.

He called on Hongkongers to “re-enlighten” themselves and pay more attention to what was happening in Beijing and take part in national projects such as the “Belt and Road Initiative” and the Greater Bay Area scheme involving Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province.

At the same seminar, Rao Geping, a member of the Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, dismissed reports that mainland officers would be allowed to fully enforce national laws in the West Kowloon terminus for the express rail link to Guangzhou, which will start operating next year.

He told the media mainland Chinese officers would only exercise limited powers at the joint immigration hall there.

“I feel you shouldn’t scare yourselves by thinking national laws will be introduced [to Hong Kong],” he said. “The issue that the mainland is trying to import national laws to Hong Kong through the checkpoint arrangement does not exist.”

Mainland and Hong Kong officials have been working out a law enforcement proposal for the joint checkpoint in the terminus, which they argue is necessary to save journey time.

But critics have long argued that such an arrangement will violate the Basic Law by allowing officers to enforce national laws inside the terminus.

Rao also questioned whether it was “lawful and appropriate” for three localist legislators to forge an alliance with Taiwanese counterparts, who back independence for the island.

Nathan Law Kwun Chun-chung, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen argued it was a legitimate exchange on democracy with the 18 parliamentarians who set up the Taiwan Congressional Hong Kong Caucus.