Hong Kong localism and independence

Radicals are breaking the law by calling for Hong Kong independence, says Beijing diplomat

But Legco president Jasper Tsang says the government has no plans to enact national security legislation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 April, 2016, 9:42pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 April, 2016, 8:44am

Hongkongers should realise that advocating for independence was illegal and calling for self-determination would lead the city nowhere, cautioned a Beijing diplomat in Hong Kong, the latest to lend his voice to the debate.

In a strongly worded speech yesterday on the open day of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in the city, deputy commissioner Hu Jianzhong also cited the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, saying there were clauses that placed restrictions on freedom of speech on grounds of national security.

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His remarks were swiftly dismissed by Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, a heavyweight of the pro-establishment camp, who argued that restrictions could only be imposed after consulting public opinion and going through all legislative procedures – and they must abide by international standards.

It was also not the right time to enact such restrictions, he said.

“The Hong Kong government has no plan to enact the national security law now,” Tsang stressed, referring to Article 23 of Basic Law, which if passed would set out laws against acts of “treason, secession, sedition or subversion”.

“The current discussion is quite vague and insubstantial … it is not the case that someone would be sanctioned simply because he is accused by anyone of breaking the law. There is rule of law in Hong Kong,” said Tsang.

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In his speech, Hu hit out at “a few radical groups” that he said had stirred up trouble by advocating self-determination and the nullification of the Basic Law, in an oblique reference to the Hong Kong National Party and Demosisto, two parties formed in recent weeks.

“They even tried to form a group to enter politics and contend in Legco elections,” he said. “Such acts are undoubtedly against the Basic Law.”

Instigating hatred towards the central government as well as anti-state speeches and publicity, he said, should be defined as treason and sedition under the Crimes Ordinance.

There were also laws restricting the registration of social groups and companies and their acts of protest if they advocated independence, Hu said.

Separately on RTHK’s City Forum yesterday, New People’s Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, a delegate to the national legislature, said pro-independence causes would only prompt the government to push for national security legislation again – a move he did not want to see.

Nathan Law Kwun-chung, secretary-general of Demosisto, said imposing restrictions would not resolve problems.

“The government should reflect on why the poor governance would prompt people to advocate [independence],” said Law.

He said advocating self-determination was different from calling on independence as the referendum his party planned to hold was only to offer Hongkongers a chance to decide their own future beyond 2047, when the principle of “one country, two systems” expires.