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Hong Kong localism and independence

Hong Kong National Party leader Andy Chan rebuked after calling on US President Donald Trump to have city and China kicked out of World Trade Organisation

In open letter, separatist calls for end to special treatment which America gives city on trade, drawing condemnation from the government

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 August, 2018, 2:17pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 August, 2018, 11:25pm

A Hong Kong separatist party felt a fresh wave of condemnation from the government on Sunday, after calling on the United States to have both the city and China kicked out of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), citing an erosion of the city’s autonomy and freedom.

The open letter penned by Andy Chan Ho-tin, convenor of Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), to US President Donald Trump came days after the young advocate’s defiant speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), which drew immediate and strong condemnation from Beijing.

In it, the party also urged Trump to suspend the differential treatment between the city and China under the US-Hong Kong Policy Act, in light of what he said was a rapid deterioration of the city’s freedoms. Such a suspension would effectively mean all the president’s tariff and trade policies against China would apply to Hong Kong as well.

“For the local Hong Kong citizens to be empowered and a genuinely autonomous Hong Kong to flourish, both China and the present regime of Hong Kong, who are the enemies of civilisation and fundamental rights, have to be first knocked down,” the letter, dated Saturday, read.

“It is our sincere belief that a free Hong Kong without Chinese sovereignty is most effective to maintain this only common-law financial hub in East Asia with its function and value to the capitalist world, and to restore a mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and Hong Kong.”

The letter sparked severe criticism from the Hong Kong government.

“Thanks to the special status granted by the Basic Law, Hong Kong has become an international economic, trade and financial hub. The achievement is evident and hard-earned,” the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said on Sunday.

“Any suggestion proposed by anyone or [any] group aiming at damaging the economic and trade, finance or even the overall interests of Hong Kong should be condemned.”

Citing Articles 116 and 151 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, the bureau said Hong Kong was a separate customs territory and may on its own, using the name “Hong Kong, China”, be involved in the WTO and other international organisations.

It stressed that Hong Kong had always abided by the WTO’s principle of opposing any trade restrictions, and pledged to strengthen trade with the US.

Why separatist Andy Chan can’t be charged under current Hong Kong law

Bernard Chan, convenor of Hong Kong’s Executive Council – the city leader’s body of top advisers – described Chan’s act as “very foolish”.

“Chan Ho-tin was inviting foreign politicians to interfere with Hong Kong’s internal affairs. I definitely think that’s very foolish. There is no need to provoke conflict … I absolutely disagree with what he did, as it would do no good to Hong Kong,” Bernard Chan said.

“Of course, maybe he did it to gain more public exposure, fame or attention … but did he think of the impact on Hong Kong people and our country?”

The US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 has stipulated the White House’s policies on Hong Kong – which include treating Hong Kong separately from China on trade – since the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Chan Ho-tin was inviting foreign politicians to interfere with Hong Kong’s internal affairs. I definitely think that’s very foolish. There is no need to provoke conflict
Bernard Chan, executive council convenor

The US president can with an executive order suspend the special treatment if he or she determines Hong Kong is not “sufficiently autonomous”.

In its letter to the White House, the HKNP argued that there was no longer any basis for the United States to give Hong Kong such treatment, “with the loss of autonomy and protection to fundamental rights”.

It accused the Hong Kong government of being a submissive puppet of China, and said allowing it to stay in the WTO as an independent member would mean offering China “unfair and unjustifiable advantages” within the organisation.

Chan’s talk last Tuesday – which went ahead despite Beijing’s objection – brought renewed calls from the authorities for Hong Kong to enact its own national security law to criminalise acts of treason, secession, sedition or subversion against the central government, as required by the Basic Law’s Article 23.

The last attempt to introduce the controversial legislation in 2003 saw half a million people take to the streets to oppose it.

Executive councillor Ronny Tong Ka-wah said on Sunday that even if the legislation was completed in 2003, Andy Chan could not be put jailed for subversion.

“Under the bill at that time, it has to involve violence [to constitute] subversion, but Chan did not mention violence … Chan’s case was not so serious that he had to be thrown into jail,” Tong said.

Pro-Beijing politicians called for measures to ban premises from offering separatists a platform, a suggestion criticised by the pro-democracy bloc as putting the city’s free speech at risk.

Additional reporting by Tony Cheung