Beijing's propaganda mouthpieces are taking turns to lambast two of the elder statesmen of Hong Kong's democracy movement, saying their visit to North America was "inviting foreign intervention" and reflected a "fetish for Western authority".
Global Times and the overseas edition of People's Daily yesterday ran caustic editorials condemning Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Martin Lee Chu-ming for their two-week visit to Canada and the United States, where they met Vice-President Joe Biden.
Accusing Chan, a former chief secretary, and Lee, the founding chairman of the Democratic Party, of making themselves the political "opposition" for "all of China", the opinion piece in the Global Times' Chinese-language edition largely repeated rhetoric used a day earlier by Xinhua.
"Inviting foreign intervention has become a political choice, as historically foreign power has outweighed that of the Chinese," the newspaper said. "It is normal for some in Hong Kong, which was a colony for more than a century, to have a fetish for Western authority."
Responding to Lee's statement that the US Congress was likely to resume its annual reports on the city's political development, the paper said it was unrealistic to believe the West could influence Hong Kong's political development.
"Western powers have long lost their influence in shaping Hong Kong's politics," it added. "The vigorous reaction of Chan and Lee's supporters to the pair's meeting with Biden shows they are … unrealistic."
In a front-page opinion article, People's Daily overseas edition accused the pair of "staging a farce" which would "lead the city's democratisation astray".
A Xinhua editorial on Friday compared Chan and Lee's response to senior Western politicians to that of "foreign slaves and traitors".
Lee had no comment last night.
The pair's trip came amid the ongoing debate between pan-democrats and Beijing over the 2017 election, when Hongkongers are due to elect their chief executive for the first time. Democracy supporters believe Beijing will use a nomination system to screen out candidates critical of the central government, and want the public to be allowed to nominate candidates.
Lawyer Johnny Mok Shiu-luen, a member of the Basic Law Committee, yesterday dismissed the idea of public nomination as unconstitutional. He argued the idea of using a nominating committee to select candidates was put in place to "foster the city's capitalist development".
Mok told RTHK the Basic Law gave the committee the power "to endorse or not endorse a candidate" and that no law passed by the Legislative Council could override the mini-constitution.
The committee is expected to be based on the 1,200-strong election committee that decided the 2012 chief executive election, and comprise representatives of four sectors: business, professionals, politicians, and a fourth group including religious and labour leaders.
"The one thing Hongkongers feared most ahead of the handover in 1997 was that Hong Kong would dump the capitalist system," Mok said. "The purpose of the nominating committee is to uphold Hong Kong's prosperity, stability, and development of the capitalist economy."