Hong Kong localism and independence

Andy Chan is not a one-off and he is not alone: that’s why Hong Kong must act against independence movement

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2018, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2018, 1:28pm

Your reader Peter Forsythe suggested that Hong Kong should “take a collective deep breath and ignore Andy Chan. And let Beijing know that we are ignoring him” (“Breathe in and ignore inanities of Andy Chan”, August 22). He also said that “government officials, both past and present, bear responsibility for needlessly giving oxygen to Chan and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club”.

As secretary general between 1988 and 1990 of the Basic Law Consultative Committee, which took part in the intense discussions over the two drafts of the Basic Law before its promulgation, I have some insights to offer.

Beijing was persuaded on Hong Kong’s own ability to tackle people like Andy Chan Ho-tin, to the point that it allowed Hong Kong to enact its own laws under Article 23 “to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government ...”, instead of applying such national laws to Hong Kong.

It was a bargain that Beijing has been waiting, for 21 years now, for Hong Kong to deliver on. And now Beijing is being told that we have no legal means to restrain or admonish Chan, or the FCC, for that matter.

Chan is not a one-off. Nor is he alone. The independence movement has been around for some time. Even without the “oxygen” from government officials, several books have been published. One university student union repeatedly advocated Hong Kong independence in its journal. Two elected Legislative Council candidates proclaimed that “Hong Kong is not China”. Some eateries have been displaying banners with the same slogan. I could go on and quote from opinion polls on Hong Kong independence.

Separatist leader Andy Chan denounces China as ‘threat to all free peoples’

Can we wish people like Andy Chan away? Experience so far shows that we cannot. What we should do is not just say to Beijing that by ignoring them they will come to nothing. The assurance that Beijing needs now from Hong Kong is our determination and ability to tackle them, legally and politically.

People in the streets on the mainland expect the same, too. We all know what the alternative will be if we are seen to be sitting on our hands.

Leung Chun-ying, vice-chairman, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, former chief executive, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region