BEIJING/HONG KONG — A controversial interpretation by China’s parliament of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution that effectively bars pro-independence lawmakers from taking office, showed Beijing’s resolve to prevent secession, a Chinese leader said on Wednesday.
Chinese leaders are increasingly concerned about a fledgling independence or secessionist movement in the former British colony of Hong Kong, which returned to mainland rule in 1997 amid promises of wide-ranging autonomies including judicial independence under a “one country, two systems” arrangement.
China’s parliament last year staged a rare interpretation of the Basic Law, as Hong Kong’s mini-constitution is called, and staged one of Beijing’s most direct interventions into the city’s legal and political system since the 1997 handover.
“The interpretation fully demonstrates the Chinese central leadership’s resolve in upholding the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and its firm stand against any attempt at secession of Hong Kong from the Chinese nation,” parliament chief Zhang Dejiang said in his annual report to parliament.
The National People’s Congress had ruled last November that all lawmakers must swear allegiance to Hong Kong as part of China and that candidates would be disqualified if they changed the wording of their oath of office or if they failed to take it in a sincere and solemn manner.
Two lawmakers, Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung, who pledged allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation” during their oath-taking, have since been barred from office after being democratically elected. Four other pro-democracy lawmakers face possible disqualification for improper oath-taking amid ongoing legal proceedings.
“It embodies the firm will of the 1.3 billion Chinese people, including those in the Hong Kong region, to safeguard their country’s sovereignty, security and developmental interests,” added Zhang, who is also the ruling Communist Party’s third-ranked leader.
Hong Kong is an inseparable part of China and any attempt at Hong Kong independence is a violation of “one country, two systems”, China’s constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law, he said.
A former Hong Kong secretary for justice, Elsie Leung, said it was important for Hong Kong’s prosperity and integrity that the central government made a statement on independence.
“This is the bottom line (of China) and cannot be over written,” Leung, now a vice-chairperson of a parliamentary committee on the Basic Law, told reporters in Beijing before the release of Zhang’s report.
While Communist Party rulers in Beijing have ultimate control over Hong Kong, their perceived growing interference in the financial hub’s affairs has stoked tensions and protests including the “Occupy” civil disobedience movement in 2014 that saw major roads blocked for nearly three months in a push for full democracy.
Premier Li Keqiang also warned over the weekend in his annual work report to parliament that the notion of Hong Kong independence would lead nowhere.
A Hong Kong member of China’s top advisory body now in Beijing said a person close to Xi Jinping had once told him the Chinese leader had described Hong Kong as “very troublesome” for China.
With Hong Kong due to select a new leader in an election on March 26, the delegate, who declined to be named, said it was likely Xi wanted someone who could better manage the city and not bring an even bigger headache for Beijing.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Clare Jim; editing by James Pomfret and Michael Perry)
Frontline police officers and union members have said the verdict jailing seven of their colleagues for beating Occupy activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu was “beyond their acceptance level” and some believe there may have been “political factors” behind the court decision.
A police union, which represents more than 20,000 members of the force, said in a statement that they were “extremely shocked” by the verdict.
The chairman of the Junior Police Officers’ Association, Joe Chan Cho-kwong issued a statement to all members on Friday morning and said the sentence was unacceptable and the union would raise funds for the seven, who have decided to appeal against the ruling.
“I feel shocked [over the jail term] like every one of you and found it unacceptable. The jail term already went beyond our acceptance level,” Chan said in the statement.
“It is understood that the seven colleagues have decided to appeal against the case that bears a lot of suspicions and an unacceptable sentence. We will raise funds for them so as to ease their financial difficulties brought by the incident,” the statement continued.
Chan added he would attempt every legal means to seek justice for the officers.
A police officer, who did not wish to be named, told the Post his Whatsapp groups were flooded with unhappy and irritated messages from his colleagues since the court handed down the two-year sentences on Friday morning, with many of them comparing the jail term with other convictions.
Examples included a Nepalese hawker who was jailed for one year for manslaughter which caused the death of a food and hygiene officer in 2015, and a teen who hurled a brick at a police officer during the Mong Kok riot last year was put on 18 months’ probation.
“Throwing bricks at police officers can be lethal … so many officers asked: are ‘fighters for democracy’ free to behave like that?” he said, adding that he found the two-year jail term “quite harsh”.
“The sentence would discourage police officers with passion,” another officer told the Post anonymously.
Some officers turned their Facebook profile pictures black to express frustration and sadness over the verdict.
Another officer, who believed the group should not be convicted, said he felt “heartbroken” for his seven colleagues and the city’s legal system, as the group did not go through a “fair judicial procedure”.
“The evidence was broken and the news clip was edited. Is it fair to convict the seven? Many of the cases I have handled were dropped for this reason in the past,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“The court said the sentence should have deterrent effect as they were police. But how about those who broke the law during the Occupy Movement? They are lawyers, teachers and social worker as well who should hold high integrity. I believed political factors were behind the verdict.”
A senior police source in a directorial rank said his colleagues should not be blinded by “sympathy” over the seven officers, as questioning the city’s judiciary system was a “very dangerous act”, which could mean the courts had also mishandled all crime cases cracked by the force in the past.
He said that no one in the city, especially law enforcers, should judge any court rulings as the independent judiciary system was a core foundation of Hong Kong.
“If we doubt or even overturn the legal system based on this court case or out of sympathy to the seven officers, then does it mean the courts had also flawed when handling all crime cases in the past?” the senior police source said. “I understand the disappointment and frustration over the verdict, but questioning the legal system is very dangerous.”
The chairman of the police inspectors’ association, Lee Jim-on, said he was “surprised” by the jail term. He also issued a letter to members, urging them to stay restrained, despite their anger and frustration over the case.
Peace and Freedom Comment: A friend who is a Westerner in Hong Kong told us that the police were outraged by the court verdict because “in China, the government doesn’t second guess the police.” He said many in the Hong Kong Police consider this verdict an “unjust vestige in the court system of British rule.” He also said, “In a few years you won’t be able to tell that Britain was ever here.”
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying defended his move to threaten legal action against a local newspaper, saying he had acted as the publication’s claims had had a significant impact.
Last Thursday, Leung threatened to sue Apple Daily over an editorial it published on September 8, which the chief executive’s lawyers claimed had “falsely, viciously and maliciously” accused him of corruption.
Ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Leung was asked why he had targeted the paper but had so far taken no legal action against pro-Beijing newspaper Sing Pao, which alleged in a series of high-profile editorials that Leung had been colluding with Beijing’s liaison office and triads.
Lawyers for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying published in full a legal letter accusing Apple Daily of defaming him with “malicious” intent. Photo: Sam Tsang
“It depends on the consequences. If it has a significant impact, then it needs to be clarified,” Leung said.
Leung added that he was not using public money to fund the legal action.
The editorial published by Apple Daily called on newly elected legislators to use the Legislative Council’s special powers to look into the HK$50 million the chief executive received from Australian firm UGL.
Leung’s legal letter argued that the allegations in the editorial affected his ability to exercise his right to stand for re-election.
While critics say the move has damaged press freedom in the city, Leung dismissed such claims.
“Press freedom and the media’s responsibility to report the whole truth do not contradict one another,” Leung said.
The chief executive remained tight-lipped as to whether the legal letter was an indication that he would seek re-election.
Two years after taking part in the famous Umbrella Movement, 25-year-old Edward Leung is back on the streets of Hong Kong with a blunt assessment of political progress.
“I was a peaceful protester. But what have we achieved? Nothing.”
This week the former British colony holds its first citywide election since the democracy protests, with opinion polls suggesting that young voters are growing more radical.
Edward Leung says that’s what frustration does to you.
“After the failure of the protests I started to question myself – am I willing to pay a higher price? Like the history of black power in US in 1960s. There was a man called Malcolm X, there was a man called Martin Luther King. People advocate their own means no matter if it’s peaceful or forceful one. I advocate all means.
“Of course if peaceful means could change society then I would love to do so because it’s less costly. But if it’s essential to use more radical means to put pressure on the government I’m open to use this means, more forceful means.”
Edward Leung is already awaiting trial on charges of rioting after a street protest earlier this year.
He’s one of a group of young democracy activists who were hoping to win election to the Legislative Council and make mainstream their battle to free Hong Kong from Beijing’s authoritarian politics.
But along with five others, he has been barred from standing as a candidate because the authorities fear that if he won a seat in the Legislative Council, he might use it as a mandate to campaign for independence.
The Occupy Central protests saw tens of thousands of demonstrators flood the city centre in September 2014. Getty Images
Chinese state media describe independence advocacy as absurd and poisonous. For Beijing, allowing self-determination in any part of China is unthinkable.
In Tibet or Xinjiang even demanding meaningful autonomy is punished with long jail terms. Peaceful activists are often charged with separatism and lumped in a criminal category with those who use violence.
Political commentator Bao Pu grew up in elite Communist Party circles in Beijing and says in the context of China’s increasingly strident nationalism, independence is simply not realistic for Hong Kong. Beijing, he says, would respond with overwhelming force.
“To gain independence, the only way is for Hong Kong to have an independent army and fight with the People’s Liberation Army and win. I think that scenario is non-existent,” he says.
But against a backdrop of political paralysis, economic slowdown and the growing influence of mainland China in every walk of life, some young Hong Kongers are beginning to think the unthinkable. In a recent poll by the Chinese University of Hong Kong nearly 40% of those surveyed under the age of 25 supported the idea of independence.
Alvin Yeung of the Civic Party is 35 and not in the independence camp. But campaigning for re-election this week, he defended the free-speech rights of those who do advocate independence, and said Beijing only has itself to blame for the radicalisation of young people in Hong Kong.
Alvin Yeung campaigns for free speech but does not back independence from China
“They have been interfering with HK affairs dramatically. We used to believe that even if we can’t choose our own chief executive we can choose our own legislature. But now this year this government is demonstrating the opposite. They handpicked a few candidates. This is very worrying.”
Keeping independence advocates out of the Legislative Council is one red line for Beijing. Keeping them out of secondary schools is another.
With teenage activists planning to discuss independence in school, some pro-Beijing groups are now pressing for classroom talks by mainland politicians and criminal sanctions against teachers who advocate independence.
As the legislative election and the start of the new school year coincide in the days ahead, the battle for young hearts and minds is in full swing.
Starry Lee heads Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing party
“Moving forward together” is the campaign slogan for the pro-Beijing DAB party. Party chairwoman Starry Lee smiles and bows to voters from a busy pedestrian overpass but she has a stern warning for young people who talk the language of independence.
“I cannot see how becoming radical or going extreme can solve problems. Do you think people in Hong Kong will pay the price for and fight for Hong Kong independence? I don’t think so.
“If you push for Hong Kong independence it means a very high price for Hong Kong society and I think that everyone knows that this is not joking.”
A passing voter shuns Starry Lee’s party politics but agrees that Beijing is not joking and says hardly a day goes by when she doesn’t think about leaving Hong Kong.
Two years ago protesters vowed to continue with their campaign, but many young voters are frustrated. Getty Images
“I really think it’s going to end bad if the majority think that we have to go for independence because I do believe central government will do anything to keep the country as one. I love Hong Kong, it’s my home. But I can see the potential for it turning bad.”
Commentator Bao Pu says whatever public sentiment, the direction of travel is not towards independence but in the opposite direction – towards greater dependence on the mainland.
“In a practical sense, Beijing has full control over what kind of democracy Hong Kong can enjoy,” he says.
“People on the streets have little say in this and China’s influence will naturally grow because Hong Kong’s economic, political and social situation are all connected to mainland China. This is a trend that nobody can reverse.”
As competing candidates vie for public attention in the closing days of the Legco election, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the vote will have little impact on fundamentals.
And with some of the leaders of the Umbrella Movement excluded, the divisions in Hong Kong’s politics seem ever more dangerous. As one person sums it up: “‘The choice is stark. Adapt, leave or die.”
Chinese men in plain clothes, believed to be security personnel, follow journalists in an apparent attempt to affect photo and video coverage outside the Tianjin No 2 Intermediate People’s Court on Wednesday, August 3, 2016. Photo: EPA
Sherif Elgebeily says the Electoral Affairs Commission runs the risk of being seen as suppressing dissent with its decision to bar a localist candidate from running
By Sherif Elgebeily
South China Morning Post
Last weekend, the Electoral Affairs Commission decided to invalidate the candidacy of Hong Kong National Party member Chan Ho-tin for the upcoming Legislative Council election. The exact reasons behind this are unclear, but other candidates who also refused to sign a newly imposed declaration form have yet to receive notice on the validity of their candidacies, fuelling concern.
The pledge to uphold the Basic Law is a fundamental part of the eligibility for candidacy, as outlined on the nomination form; it is for this reason that the ineligibility of Democratic Progressive Party of Hong Kong’s Yeung Ke-cheong – who refused to sign the nomination form itself – is legally valid.
On one level, the additional declaration form is obsolete, as it simply duplicates existing obligations. Worse, it also appears to contravene both the rule of law in Hong Kong and the Basic Law in its effect.
First, there is no legal basis for the demand of an additional form, and the invalidation of candidacy on these grounds is beyond the powers of the commission. Any reference to such a form is absent in the law governing the election procedure; moreover, an exhaustive list of requirements for nomination is provided for under Section 40 of the Legislative Council Ordinance. Any legally enforceable declaration or criteria for the nomination of individuals would require amendments of the existing law, a path which has not been followed.
The commission has no absolute power to create new law
The commission has no absolute power to create new law. The form is also undermined by the commission’s own guidelines, which make mention of five explicit criteria for eligibility of nomination. They do not include the submission of a declaration form. These paradoxes raise alarm over the rule of law in Hong Kong, notably the separation of powers between government bodies and the supremacy of the law in an administrative context.
Second, in disqualifying candidates who are seen to advocate independence, on the grounds of failure to complete the declaration form, the commission has barred popularly supported candidates from representing their supporters. This infringes not only the rights of Hong Kong citizens to be elected, but also that of all citizens to elect their own representatives, and amounts to a violation of Article 26 of the Basic Law. To do so on the grounds of political belief also falls foul of articles 27 and 32 on free speech and the freedom of conscience. It is at best contradictory for the commission to disqualify candidates on the grounds of undermining the Basic Law while violating that document in doing so.
Edward Leung speaks to the press last month. Leung received votes from some 66,000 Hong Kong people in the New Territories East by-election this year. Photo: AFP
Chan’s disqualification reflects a worrying trend of the regulation of Legco members. By eliminating voices of dissent at the ballot-paper stage, the authorities appear to be telling selected political groups that their opinions are either not welcome or not legitimate.
This rigid stance defies reality in today’s Hong Kong. Not all localist groups can be labelled anomalies. This year, for example, Hong Kong Indigenous’ Edward Leung Tin-kei won nearly 16 per cent of the vote in the New Territories East – over 66,000 voters in real terms. These citizens deserve to be heard.
Perhaps more importantly, voting patterns show that first-time and younger voters have been decidedly more involved in the election process, not only through casting ballots but also standing themselves. A new generation – those born after the handover – have reached voting age, and they care more about the status of Hong Kong and the full realisation of Basic Law freedoms than they do about the platforms that have traditionally formed political manifestos and campaigns. The government has a duty to engage with this demographic.
In essence, the decision to invalidate Legco candidacies over political stances is tantamount to the invalidation of the legitimacy of the voice of the youth today. From both a legal and political standpoint, the declaration form was unnecessary, illegal and threatens the future of the rule of law in Hong Kong.
Sherif Elgebeily (@selgebeily) is Bingham Centre International Rule of Law Visiting Fellow 2016, and a lecturer with the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law
The Bingham Centre is a part of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:
Anyone running for the legislature must sign a document pledging to support the notion that Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China — If you don’t sign, you cannot be part of the election….
Tuesday, 2 August 2016 14:53 GMT
* Candidates must sign form rejecting independence stance
* Opponents say that is assault on democracy
* Four candidates disqualified so far
By Tyrone Siu
HONG KONG, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Dozens of masked demonstrators tried to force their way into an electoral meeting in Hong Kong on Tuesday to protest against a new bar on anyone running for the legislature who refuses to declare the territory an “inalienable” part of China.
They were among hundreds of protesters gathered outside the meeting, a briefing for prospective parliamentarians, shouting for Hong Kong’s independence.
Inside the venue, some candidates who had been approved to run for election protested the decision to disqualify others.
Members of the League of Social Democrats and People Power tried several times to charge the stage and take the microphone before being pushed back by security, forcing the meeting to be suspended at least three times.
Politicians from other pro-democracy parties chanted: “No more political elimination!” and “Defend a fair election!”
The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) said last month that potential candidates for the September Legislative Council election must sign an additional “confirmation form” declaring Hong Kong an inalienable part of China and acknowledging that advocating independence could disqualify them from the election.
Hong Kong has greater freedoms than mainland China and separate laws that were guaranteed for 50 years as part of a “one country, two systems” framework negotiated with the British when they handed back their former colony.
But there has been political unrest in recent years centring on Beijing’s refusal to allow fully democratic elections and its perceived meddling in the special administrative region.
Beijing’s top official in Hong Kong came out in support of the EAC’s new form while three Hong Kong politicians filed a request for an urgent judicial review.
So far the EAC has rejected four candidates. Activists have posted personal attacks on some of the EAC officers responsible for the decision, actions that the Hong Kong government has condemned.
Edward Leung Tin-kei, who was rejected as a candidate by the EAC on Tuesday, responded by saying the city was ruled by a “dictatorship”, local broadcaster RTHK reported.
Leung, a leader of the group Hong Kong Indigenous was one of the first street activists to move into mainstream politics when he won an unexpected 15 percent of the vote in a February legislative by-election.
He had signed the EAC’s confirmation form, saying his top priority was to get elected. (Writing by Clare Baldwin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
HONG KONG (AFP) – A high-profile Hong Kong pro-independence leader said Tuesday he had been barred from standing in upcoming parliamentary elections — the latest candidate backing separation from mainland China to be disqualified.
The apparent ban for Edward Leung, of the Hong Kong Indigenous party, from the September vote came despite him signing a controversial new form (document) declaring Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China.
Critics have slammed the new stipulation by electoral authorities as political censorship and an attempt to deter prospective candidates from advocating self-determination or independence from Beijing.
Some activists are calling for more distance or even a complete breakaway from the mainland as fears grow that freedoms in the semi-autonomous city are disappearing due to Beijing interference.
Campaigners, including Leung, have challenged the declaration form in court and at least 13 prospective candidates have refused to sign it.
Leung, 25, eventually signed last week, despite his open advocacy for an independent Hong Kong, in the hope the authorities would validate his candidacy.
But his party said Tuesday he had been rejected.
It accused the electoral commission of “trampling the will of the people, abusing administrative power and giving up political neutrality”.
“There is no way the crime of selecting candidates according to political goals can be easily forgiven,” it said in a statement.
The founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, Andy Chan, was one of three other hopefuls barred in recent days from standing in the September vote.
Chan had refused to sign the declaration form.
The other two prospective candidates who disqualified were also part of the “localist” movement, which is pushing for more autonomy for Hong Kong after mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014 failed to win political reform.
Beijing and Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said that advocating independence goes against the city’s mini constitution, known as the Basic Law, and that independence activists could face legal consequences.
Various government departments including the electoral office made no comment Tuesday.
The government Monday condemned what it called “malicious personal attacks” online aimed at returning officers over their decisions during the registration period and said police may take action.
Hong Kong was returned from Britain to China in 1997 under an arrangement that guarantees civil liberties unseen on the mainland.
But concerns have grown that such freedoms are now fading as Beijing increases its influence across a range of areas, from politics to the media.
HONG KONG: A member of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party has been disqualified from running in next month’s Legislative Council elections after he declined to sign a controversial new form saying the city is an “inalienable” part of China.
Chan Ho-tin received an email from the Electoral Affairs Commission on Saturday which said his application to join the election had been “invalidated”, fuelling speculation that others who hold pro-independence views also could be disqualified.
Chan Ho-tin, The Face of Pro-Independence in Hong Kong
“The National Party is honoured to become the first party to be banned from joining a democratic election by the government due to political difference,” the party wrote on its Facebook page.
The requirement that candidates pledge that the former British colony is part of China, and that advocating independence could make them ineligible to stand for election, is the latest in a series of issues that have raised concern about what many people in Hong Kong see as mainland China’s increasing control.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula meant to guarantee the financial hub’s considerable freedoms and separate laws.
But China’s refusal to allow unfettered democracy in next year’s election for the city’s leader triggered pro-democracy protests in 2014, and spurred worries about the city’s future.
A series of issues since then has compounded those fears.
The government issued a statement saying it agreed to and supported the decision to disqualify Chan.
The activist is one of a number of pro-independence candidates who refused to sign the recently introduced additional declaration form.
Previously, candidates only needed to pledge to uphold Hong Kong laws.
A Hong Kong court declined to rule on Wednesday on a challenge filed by activist politicians to the new rule.
About 100 people joined a rally on Saturday night to support Chan.
(Reporting By Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Kim Coghill)
(CNN) A top leadership candidate in Hong Kong has been banned from running in the upcoming elections after the government declared he “cannot possibly fulfill his duties as a legislator” while also pledging allegiance to his pro-independence party.
Chan Ho-tin of the Hong Kong National Party is part of a separatist movement that is largely on the fringe but gaining momentum ahead of the September election.
Election officers have issued warnings to all candidates that they must vow to uphold Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, officially called the Basic Law. It’s a doctrine that includes a declaration stating the city is an “inalienable” part of China.
Before being disqualified, Chan signed the pledge to uphold the Basic Law, which has governed Hong Kong since the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997.
But Hong Kong authorities were skeptical, and Saturday they declared that Chan’s party is “inconsistent with the constitutional and legal status of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”
They added that “if a person advocates or promotes the independence of the HKSAR, he cannot possibly uphold the Basic Law.”
The Hong Kong National Party responded with a statement saying it is “truly proud” to be the “first party to be barred from a democratic election by the Communist colonial government of Hong Kong.”
The party calls for revoking Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration and establishing a new constitution.
Many of the Hong Kong National Party followers come from a spontaneous revolution that began in 2014 but has since dwindled in momentum.
Riot police use pepper spray as they clash with protesters September 28, 2014.
Since the handover from Britain, Hong Kong has been governed under China’s principle of “one country, two systems” — Hong Kong has been giving it rights and freedom unseen in the mainland and paving the way for a generation of protesters.
But in September 2014, in the heart of Hong Kong, something changed.
Pro-democracy protesters stand their ground in the financial district of Hong Kong on October 17, 2014.
Police in riot gear moved in on peaceful pro-democracy protesters, using tear gas to disperse the crowds.
From these clashes emerged the Umbrella Movement,named for the umbrellas the protesters used to shield themselves from the tear gas and pepper spray.
For 79 days, thousands of protesters occupied Hong Kong’s financial district and elsewhere to demand true universal suffrage — one person, one vote, without the interference of Beijing.
The skyline of Hong Kong seen from Victoria Peak on Nov. 9, 2014. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
HONG KONG — About one in six people in Hong Kong want the special administrative region of China to become independent of the mainland, a university poll has shown, although few think it will ever happen.
According to the poll, released on Sunday, 17.4 percent somewhat supported or strongly supported independence for Hong Kong when its 50-year “one country, two systems” agreement, under which it is governed by Beijing, expires in 2047.
Another 22.9 percent were ambivalent, according to the poll, which was conducted by The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey. Another 57.6 percent were somewhat or strongly against the idea.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed back to China in 1997 under an agreement that gave ultimate control to Beijing but promised Hong Kong greater freedoms and separate laws for at least 50 years.
Tensions have grown over the past two years, with activists saying China is failing to abide by its agreement while Beijing says the activists are operating outside the law.
The two sides have clashed over months-long pro-democracy street demonstrations, flash riots and government appointments viewed by some as controversial.
A small but vocal minority of activists has also called for outright independence from China and has fielded candidates for the election to Hong Kong’s lawmaking body in September.
City officials sparked a row by saying candidates who failed to sign a declaration that Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China and who promoted or advocated independence could be deemed ineligible.
Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao said while meeting a Hong Kong youth delegation in Beijing on Monday that young people in the territory should “ardently love our country from the bottom of our hearts”, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Despite the support for independence in the poll, few see it as a real possibility. According to the poll, fewer than 4 percent of respondents thought it was possible.
The poll was conducted over the telephone with 1,010 Cantonese-speaking residents aged 15 or above from July 6-15.
(Reporting by Clare Baldwin and Sharon Shi; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Paul Tait)
The question that they will face is does the Basic Law really work to reconcile the inherent political contradictions of Hong Kong, or is it just ‘public relations wallpaper’
By Peter Guy South China Morning Post
Sunday, June 19, 2016, 5:04 pm
He who bears witness to history owns it. The bookseller Lam Wing-kee made sure that he told his version of the truth before it was washed away by time, speculation and hearsay. Now we know what it was all about: something intimate and ugly.
At its most cynical, the Hong Kong business establishment treated Beijing as another colonialist- time to make new friends. At its most optimistic, business and economic integration would continue with the Basic Law as the guiding document that tries to reconcile the most difficult forms of government- a city with civic freedoms administered by an undemocratic government.
But, China’s rapid development has spawned an economic schism rather than absolute opportunity for Hong Kong because its tycoons and leading business people are intellectually ill-equipped for playing a role in the world’s second-largest economy.
Despite a slowdown in the Chinese economy, multinationals continue to invest in the country. Indeed, HSBC’s balance sheet pivot to commit more capital to the country represents an important shift in risk perception. Foreign companies are increasingly willing to subject themselves to Chinese law.
Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee listens to a reporter’s question during an interview in Hong Kong, Sunday, June 19, 2016. Photo: AP
Hong Kong is a sovereign territory of China. But, the booksellers’ affair makes the city’s citizens feel that they are only part of China – a subtle estrangement. Initially, the gambit worked. Beijing bet that Hong Kong people, in particular the ruling government and business establishment, possessed no principles that they would stand and fight for. They were right. Everyone just wants to make money.
But, the disappearance and detention of the booksellers effectively sacrificed and eviscerated supporters from the business establishment who touted the rule of law. The only route out of this public relations disaster was for everyone to remain silent. Until one of the booksellers spoke up the entire incident would have surely faded away.
Hong Kong’s tycoons and business caste… believe that the only freedom that matters is their own freedom to make money
The affair has cast a sinister shadow upon our city. Its conundrums and dangers challenge the transformation of Hong Kong society and economy beyond its current status quo of vested interests who seek to anchor us to an era where local Chinese didn’t need to care about political affairs.
Hong Kong’s tycoons and business caste are an especially short-sighted and parochial group sentimentally stuck in their glory days of the 70s and 80s. They believe that the only freedom that matters is their own freedom to make money. You only need enough freedom to do business. Or like most Hong Kong people think, you only need to understand enough English to transact commerce, which partially accounts for why English competency is so poor.
The cryptic silence of the most important people in our community is bad for the business of Hong Kong, which necessarily needs to interact with the world at large. Both locals and foreigners need to know if the Basic Law really works to reconcile the inherent political contradictions of Hong Kong SAR or if it is just public relations wallpaper that has now lost its force in law. If it is a dead document, then business people can just directly with, and pragmatically conduct business in, China. Hong Kong’s role as a business and cultural bridge would have died with a whimper.
Displaying courage, acumen and moral fortitude, the bookseller Lam Wing-kee compels Hong Kong people toward a greater good beyond making money.