The Chinese government would respond with “guns and cannons” if activists gathered enough strength to make Hong Kong an independent state, a Beijing-based legal expert said yesterday. The remarks came two days after National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang ( 張德江 ) dismissed calls for self-determination and independence as “unfeasible” and not acceptable “to the vast majority of Hongkongers”, shortly before he concluded a three-day visit to the city. Pro-Beijing barrister Lawrence Ma Yan-kwok said that Basic Law Committee vice-chairman Zhang Rongshun ( 張榮順 ) told him in a closed-door meeting that advocacy for Hong Kong independence is “not a problem” for Beijing. “Because it does not have the strength,” he quoted. “Even if it has the strength, it will be easy for Beijing because the central government has the laws, guns and cannons to handle it.” In March, some university students formed the Hong Kong National Party and called for independence. Occupy protesters, meanwhile, formed the Demosisto party to demand self-determination for the city after 2047. According to Article 14 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, the Hong Kong government may ask Beijing, when necessary, for assistance from the Chinese army’s local garrison to maintain public order. Former lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said it was unlikely Beijing would mobilise its army in Hong Kong. “It would only invite criticism that the ‘one country, two systems’ principle has failed.” Meanwhile, student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Executive Councillor Cheng Yiu-tong both agreed it would have been inappropriate if pan-democrat lawmakers had told Zhang to remove Leung Chun-ying as Hong Kong’s chief executive. They were referring to a meeting on Wednesday between Zhang and four pan-democrats, who had said beforehand they would focus on removing Leung and restarting the political reform process to achieve a popular ballot for the city’s top job. Speaking on RTHK yesterday, Wong, secretary general of the Demosisto party, said he “felt uncomfortable” about calls for Leung to be removed. “Pan-democrats should have focused on demands for universal suffrage,” Wong said. Cheng said he heard the pan-democrats “telling Zhang to stop Leung from seeking re-election” next March. What we said was that Leung caused social divisions and it would be inappropriate for him to seek another term Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan However,Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan clarified they did not ask Zhang to remove Leung. “[We said] Leung caused social divisions and it would be inappropriate for him to seek another term,” Ho explained.