Beijing has ‘zero tolerance’ for separatism, mainland official warns Hongkongers seeking role in China’s legislature
National People’s Congress vice-chairman Wang Chen sounded this warning ahead of the December 19 election to appoint 36 local deputies to the National People’s Congress
Hongkongers aspiring to represent the city on China’s legislature must swear to uphold the Chinese constitution and the “one country, two systems” principle, as Beijing would not tolerate any bid by Hong Kong to be independent, a senior mainland official said on Wednesday.
National People’s Congress (NPC) vice-chairman Wang Chen was speaking in Hong Kong to a 1,400-strong audience, made up of mostly pro-establishment politicians and businessmen, ahead of a poll that takes place every five years to choose 36 local deputies to serve in the NPC.
Those at Wednesday’s meeting are among 1,989 people eligible to vote at the December 19 election.
Current NPC deputies from the city and pro-establishment figures seeking to get elected were seen collecting nomination forms at the meeting.
Among them were Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, formerly Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, lawyers Ambrose Lam San-keung and Maggie Chan Man-ki, and former legislator Tam Yiu-chung.
In his opening speech, Wang said it was of utmost importance that the deputies were patriotic and had a sense of national identity, as they would be members of the “highest organ of state power”.
“We would absolutely not tolerate any act that threatens national sovereignty and security,” he said.
Wang also noted that while the “one country, two systems” principle, that gives Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, had been “successfully” implemented, some Hongkongers had been advocating the city’s independence or self-determination.
“The central government’s clear stance is that there is ‘zero-tolerance’ for independence advocacy,” he added.
At the meeting, the electors also endorsed the Beijing-nominated line-up of a 19-member presidium, which is tasked to oversee the election.
Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was invited to the meeting but was not included as a member of the presidium.
Tsang was sentenced to 20 months in prison in February after being found guilty of misconduct during his term and has been out on bail since April, pending an appeal.
In March, the national legislature endorsed a set of new rules for the election of Hong Kong and Macau deputies this year, making it mandatory for candidates to declare that they would uphold the Chinese constitution and Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
The new rules also stated that candidates must pledge allegiance to both China and Hong Kong, as well as to declare that they had not and would not accept foreign sources of election funds.
Wang said these rules “were the most basic requirement” for candidates.
Separately, Ambrose Lau Hon-chuen, the spokesman for the presidium, said candidates who failed to make such declarations “genuinely” would be disqualified before or after the election.
He appeared reluctant to explain whether Tsang was absent from the presidium because of his criminal record.
“The presidium’s formation followed a set of principles … There has to be representatives from different sectors and political groups,” he said.
But Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of Beijing’s top think tank on Hong Kong affairs, said he believed that Tsang’s criminal record explained why he was not included.
“The central government might think that since Tsang has been discredited, he should not be elevated above the 1,989 electors,” Lau said.
The nomination period begins on Friday and ends on December 4.
The 1,989-member election panel will choose the 36 deputies by block vote.
The pan-democratic camp, which has about 300 electors, is expected to snub the poll following the change in rules, even though the size of its bloc means it has some power to influence the election outcome.
However, its previous attempts to win seats have fallen short.