Posts Tagged ‘Secession’

Thousands rally in Madrid, urge jailing of deposed Catalan leader — Chanting “Prison for Puigdemont” — “Y viva Espana”

October 28, 2017


© AFP / by Marianne BARRIAUX | Spain is undergoing its worst constitutional crisis since its return to democracy in the 1970s

MADRID (AFP) – “Prison for Puigdemont,” shouted thousands of people in central Madrid, gathered under a giant Spanish flag Saturday in anger at Catalonia’s unilateral declaration of independence under secessionist leader Carles Puigdemont.

As music blared from giant speakers — from British band Coldplay to Spanish singer Manolo Escobar’s “Y viva Espana” (“And long live Spain” in Spanish) — pro-unity protesters banded together on the square.

Unhappy with Catalonia’s secession bid, many also directed anger at Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whom they accuse of having been too soft on the region’s separatist leaders.

“It is a disgrace what happened in Catalonia, and it’s a disgrace what happened after,” said Carlos Fernandez, a 41-year-old mining engineer.

On Friday, the Catalan parliament declared unilateral independence.

Rajoy replied by axing Puigdemont and his executive, dissolving parliament, and calling snap December 21 regional elections to quash what he termed an “escalation of disobedience.”

“Nothing is going to change in two months,” said Fernandez of Rajoy’s intervention, “it’s just prolonging the problem.”

Sitting on a concrete ledge clutching a large red and yellow national flag, he said he was disappointed at the low pro-unity turnout.

“It’s because of what the government said yesterday, many people think that it’s all solved,” he said.

Speeches began at midday.

“Today, we have all come to demonstrate our unity, to proclaim that we will get Catalonia back,” one presenter told the crowd.

To cheers and shouts of “prison for Puigdemont,” she added: “We won’t stop until we see them in jail.”

Spanish prosecutors have announced they will next week file charges of “rebellion” against Puigdemont — a crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Near the square, a large banner proclaiming: “Spain doesn’t surrender” hung from a building occupied by the far-right, xenophobic group Hogar Social.

People leant out of windows and cheered as dozens of protesters holding flags of the Spanish Legion, an army unit, and the small, far-right party National Democracy marched up, flanked by police.

Back on the square, Jorge Marin, a 38-year-old engineer, said: “In the end, this is going to come to nothing.”

“The Catalans aren’t serious, and we’re not serious, because they’re not really getting independence, and we’re not going to put them in prison for what they’re doing.”

by Marianne BARRIAUX
There is no alternative but for Catalonia to be ruled by Madrid, and declaring independence is political folly
Published: 16:35 October 28, 2017Gulf News

Spain has entered unchartered political waters after the restive region of Catalonia declared independence prior to the central government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, utilising powers granted to it under Article 155 of the nation’s Constitution, suspended the Catalan regional assembly. On October 1, the separatists held an illegal referendum on independence that was backed by more than 90 per cent of the 2.24 million in the region who cast their votes.

The referendum process itself was deeply flawed, having been declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court and the Catalan High Court before voting day, and the Rajoy government used every avenue available to disrupt the vote. Undeterred by the prospect of fines and imprisonment, voters overwhelmingly opted for declaring the region around Spain’s second-largest city as independent. Over the past month, and against a backdrop of deteriorating relationships between the Madrid and Catalan governments, the separatists held back declaring independence until Friday afternoon, and then voted 70 to 10 in favour of the declaration when it became clear that the Madrid government, with the backing of both houses and the tacit support of King Felipe VI, was going to suspend the Catalan regional assembly and rule it from the capital.

Despite having held two referendums on independence over the past three years, and with large majorities in favour on both occasions, the reality is that the separatists possess mandates that are illegal and deeply flawed. Prior to the most recent illegal referendum, there was no campaign for staying in Spain, and the vote was ignored or boycotted by those against the proposed split.

Spain is made up of 17 different regions, each with a distinctive heritage and linguistic nuances, and there is no process, legal or otherwise, for any of those regions to go their own way. Pursuing independence or using the results of these plebiscites to break up Spain is not realistic and simply smacks of political opportunism. Spain is not divisible, and while the Catalonians might bask in their declaration, it is not recognised, has no legitimacy, and is simply a desperate move by those who have a political agenda that suits their own ends.

These are indeed worrying times, but there is a way forward. Both sides need to work out a political process that may result in greater powers for the region — but only within Spain. And fresh regional elections need to be held in the spring, with every voter casting ballots to ensure a new Catalan assembly is fully representative of all Spaniards.


Spain warns it will act if Catalonia declares independence

October 9, 2017

The Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain’s deputy prime minister says the Spanish government will be ready to act if Catalan separatist leaders go ahead and declare independence on Tuesday as they have promised.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told the COPE radio station Monday that “if they declare independence, there will be decisions to restore the law and democracy.”

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont is to address the Catalan parliament on Tuesday evening to debate the political situation. Separatist politicians have said there will be a declaration of independence during that session, although some ruling coalition lawmakers say the move would be “symbolic.”

Saenz de Santamaria also called for members of the Catalan government “who still respect democracy and freedom to refrain from jumping into the void.”

Standard & Poors Considers Downgrading Catalonia’s debt rating

October 5, 2017


© AFP/File | Pro-referendum demonstrators gather in front of a building with a banner reading ‘Welcome to the Catalan republic’ during a protest near the Economy headquarters of Catalonia’s regional government in Barcelona, on September 20, 2017

PARIS (AFP) – The international credit rating agency Standard & Poors said it may downgrade the sovereign debt rating of Catalonia in the next three months as tensions with Madrid escalate over the region’s push for independence.

“S&P Global Ratings placed its ratings on the Autonomous Community of Catalonia on CreditWatch with negative implications,” the rating agency said in a statement released late on Wednesday.

“The Catalan government’s political confrontation with Spain’s central government has escalated following a referendum in Catalonia on October 1 on the region’s independence,” the statement said.

“We see a risk that this escalation may damage the coordination and communication between the two governments, which is essential to Catalonia’s ability to service its debt on time and in full.”

As a result, S&P said it would place Catalonia’s ratings — currently “B+/B” — “on CreditWatch with negative implications.”

The agency said it expected to “resolve the CreditWatch within the next three months.”

Image result for Catalan banks, photos

In Spain’s worst political crisis in decades, Catalonia held an independence referendum on Sunday, although the vote was banned by Madrid.

Images of police beating unarmed Catalans taking part in the vote sparked global concern.

Spain’s key IBEX 35 stock index plunged by more than three percent Wednesday in the ongoing turbulence, with some big Catalan banks down more than five percent.

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See also:

Catalan Customers Torn on Who to Bank With on Secession Fear

Spanish police use axes to smash their way into Catalan voting center

October 1, 2017

The Associated Press

Image may contain: outdoor

Spanish Civil Guard officers break through a door at a polling station for the banned independence referendum. Reuters

SANT JULIA DE RAMIS, Spain — Spanish riot police smashed their way into the polling station where Catalonia’s regional leader was due to vote in the disputed independence referendum on Sunday.Scuffles erupted outside between police and people waiting to vote.

Civil Guard officers, wearing helmets and carrying shields, used a hammer to break the glass of the front door and a lock cutter to break into the Sant Julia de Ramis sports center near the city of Girona. At least one woman was injured outside the building and wheeled away on a stretcher by paramedics.

Clashes broke out less than an hour after polls opened, and not long before Catalonia regional president Carles Puigdemont was expected to turn up to vote. Polling station workers inside the building reacted peacefully and broke out into songs and chants challenging the officers’ presence.

National Police and Civil Guard officers also showed up in other polling centers where Catalan officials were expected.

Catalans defied rain and police orders to leave designated polling stations for the banned referendum on the region’s secession that has challenged Spain’s political and institutional order.

The country’s Constitutional Court has suspended the vote and the Spanish central government says it’s illegal.

Regional separatist leaders have pledged to hold it anyway, promising to declare independence if the “yes” side wins, and have called on 5.3 million eligible voters to cast ballots.

Reporters with The Associated Press saw ballot boxes wrapped in plastic bags being carried into some of the polling stations in Barcelona occupied by parents, children and activists before some polling stations could open at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) as scheduled.

The plastic ballot boxes, bearing the seal of the Catalan regional government, were placed on tables, prompting the cheering of hopeful voters that had gathered in schools before dawn.

Some 2,300 facilities had been designated as polling stations, but it was unclear how many were able to open. The Ministry of Interior didn’t provide a number late on Saturday when it said that “most” of them had been sealed off and that only “some” remained occupied.

Police have received orders to avoid the use of force and only have been warning people to vacate the facilities. They are also supposed to confiscate ballots and ballot boxes.


In an effort to overcome myriad obstacles, Catalan officials announced that voters would be allowed to cast ballots in any location and using ballots printed at home, rather than in designated polling stations as previously announced.

Regional government spokesman Jordi Turull also said that a group of “academics and professionals” would serve as election observers. The official electoral board appointed by the regional parliament was disbanded last week to avoid hefty fines by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

“We are under conditions to be able to celebrate a self-determination referendum with guarantees,” Turull said in a press conference. “Our goal is that all Catalans can vote.”

Tension has been on the rise since the vote was called in early September, crystalizing years of defiance by separatists in the affluent region, which contributes a fifth of Spain’s 1.1 trillion-euro economy ($1.32 trillion.)

Spain’s 2008-2013 financial crisis and harsh austerity measures fueled frustration in Catalonia for setbacks in efforts to gain greater autonomy, with many Catalans feeling they could do better on their own.

Courts and police have been cracking down for days to halt the vote, confiscating 10 million paper ballots and arresting key officials involved in the preparations. On Saturday, Civil Guard agents dismantled the technology to connect voting stations, count the votes and vote online, leading the Spanish government to announce that holding the referendum would be “impossible.”

Joaquim Bosch, a 73-year-old retiree at Princep de Viana high school, where a crowd of 20 people was growing Sunday morning, said he was uneasy about a possible police response to the crowds.


Spain and Catalonia: Heading for Showdown Over Independence Vote

September 30, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people, crowd and outdoor

BARCELONA, Spain — Montserrat Aguilera wasn’t intending to vote for the Catalonia region to secede from the rest of Spain.

But the 52-year-old laboratory worker changed her mind amid an unprecedented crackdown by Spain’s government as it tries to prevent Sunday’s independence referendum from going ahead.

Spain and its most powerful and prosperous region are headed for a showdown, with police trying to shut down polling stations to stop the referendum and activists, students and parents occupying schools designated voting places to keep them open.

Much remains unclear, including whether police will forcibly remove people who are still in the polling stations at a 6 a.m. Sunday deadline and how many of Catalonia’s voters will be able to cast ballots amid the central government’s crackdown.

Also unknown is what happens next if regional leaders declare any vote legitimate and Catalonia declares independence. The referendum was suspended under constitutional rules weeks ago so a court could consider its legality.

Turnout will be key, and if people like Aguilera are any indication, it could be high. She wanted a referendum to be held under constitutional rules so she could vote “no” and try to keep Spain and Catalonia united. Now, she wants Madrid to feel the pinch of the region’s disgust.

“I don’t agree with the way the vote has been convoked by the Catalan government. It should have been a legal one,” Aguilera said. “But this is going to be a demonstration of democratic force to show (Prime Minister Mariano) Rajoy that we deserve respect and that he needs to listen to Catalonia.”

Catalan authorities have pledged to make the voting possible even if police, acting on judges’ orders, manage to close polling stations and seal off ballot boxes. Some 5.3 million people are eligible to vote in the region, one of 17 in Spain.

The latest surge for independence essentially started in 2010, when Spain’s Constitutional Court struck down key parts of a groundbreaking charter that would have granted Catalonia greater autonomy and recognized it as a nation within Spain.

The rejection stung, and Spain’s 2008-2013 financial crisis and the harsh austerity measures that followed generated more support for secession, with many Catalans feeling they could do better on their own. Catalonia contributes a fifth of the country’s 1.1 trillion-euro economy ($1.32 trillion.)

While the vast majority of Catalans favor holding a referendum, they have long been almost evenly split over independence.

If “yes” wins, Catalan authorities have promised to declare independence within 48 hours. No minimum participation rate has been set, but regional President Carles Puigdemont has acknowledged that a significant turnout will be needed to declare the results legitimate.

In a mock referendum in 2014, only about 35 percent of Catalans voted. Eighty percent favored independence.

Officials say the Spanish crackdown could make the difference this time. Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras said six out of 10 Catalans were expected to vote, according to the regional government’s polling.

Nou Barris, where Aguilera lives, showed the least support among Barcelona’s neighborhoods for separatist parties in regional elections two years ago. In balconies and windows, there are few of the pro-independence flags ubiquitous in other central and wealthier areas of Barcelona.

Still, Aguilera says many in her neighborhood, including her son, have decided to show for Sunday’s disputed vote.

“Vote yes, vote no, vote null or an empty ballot, but vote to be free and be heard,” she said. “These two governments need to sit down and talk, and this is how we’ll make them understand that.”

The Spanish government says the vote, which has been ordered suspended by the Constitutional Court, will not take place. It has called in thousands of police reinforcements that are being housed in ferries in Barcelona’s port, raising tensions in one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations.

The government has also initiated a barrage of legal challenges, including placing 700 pro-independence mayors under investigation and briefly arresting a dozen or so government officials.

“These are not easy days, for sure, but we feel strong,” Puigdemont said recently. “While Spain acts like a regime where the authority of power grows inversely to its moral strength, we feel increasingly supported by the Catalan people’s greatest asset: its people.”

But it’s hard to see how a vote will take place when millions of ballot papers were seized and police have been ordered to make sure no polling center stays open. There is no electoral board to monitor the election, but Catalan authorities say votes will be counted.

“Voting is not guaranteed,” Andrew Dowling, a Catalonia specialist at Cardiff University in Wales, said. “We don’t know what will happen but there won’t be a referendum in any meaningful sense.”

There has also been little or no campaigning by those opposed to independence.

“The ‘no’ side don’t feel they have to turn out on Sunday because they don’t think independence is going to happen,” Dowling said.

No country or international body has expressed an appetite for Catalan independence either. The European Union backs Spain and says an independent Catalonia would have to reapply for EU membership, something Spain could block.

“On a legal level, Madrid is right,” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said Friday. “I think it’s important to talk on a political level after Monday and to respect laws — Catalan laws and Spanish laws.”

U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Spain should stay united, branding the secession move as “foolish.”

Rajoy, the prime minister, has warned Catalonia to drop the referendum bid, which he called a “totalitarian act.”

Talks between the two sides have been virtually nonexistent and both accuse each other of acting illegally and undemocratically.

The issue has so far had almost no economic fallout, although the S&P credit rating agency warned that growth prospects may weaken if tensions in Catalonia escalate.

“If you have got financial interests in Madrid or internationally you do not think that Catalan independence is imminent and I think that feeling is true for lots of Spanish people and lots of Catalans,” Dowling said.


Giles contributed from Madrid.


Find complete AP coverage of the Catalonia referendum here.

Iraqi Kurds vote in historic independence referendum, shrugging off threats

September 25, 2017

By Maher ChmaytelliAhmed Jadallah

 Kurdish voters

Erbil, Iraq —  Voting started on Monday in an independence referendum organized by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, ignoring the threats of the Kurds’ neighbors and fears of further instability and violence across the Middle East.

Polling stations opened their doors at 8:00 a.m. (1.00 a.m. ET) and should close at 6:00 p.m. The final results should be announced within 72 hours.

The vote, expected to deliver a comfortable “yes” for independence, is not binding and is meant to give Massoud Barzani’s KRG a mandate to negotiate secession of the oil producing region with Baghdad and neighboring states.

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Massoud Barzani

“We have been waiting 100 years for this day,” said Rizgar, standing in a queue of men waiting to cast a ballot in a school in Erbil, the KRG capital.

“We want to have a state, with God’s help. Today is a celebration for all Kurds. God willing, we will say yes, yes to dear Kurdistan.”

The voting is open to all registered residents, Kurds and non-Kurds, in the Kurdish-held areas in northern Iraq aged 18 or over, according to the referendum commission.

The commission estimates the number of eligible voters at 5.2 million, including those living abroad and who started casting electronic ballots two days ago.

Voters should tick yes or no on the ballot paper asking them just one question in Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic and Assyrian: “do you want the Kurdistan Region and Kurdistani areas outside the (Kurdistan) Region to become an independent country?”

Employees show their ink-stained fingers during Kurds independence referendum in Halabja, Iraq September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

The referendum is held despite intense international pressure on Barzani to call it off, amid fears that it would spark fresh conflicts with Baghdad and with Iraq’s powerful neighbors, Iran and Turkey.

Iran declared a ban on direct flights to and from Kurdistan on Sunday, while Baghdad asked foreign to stop direct oil trading with Kurdistan and demanded that the KRG hands over control of its international airports and border posts with Iran, Turkey and Syria.

“We have seen worse, we have seen injustice, we have seen killings and blockades,” said Talat, waiting to cast a vote in Erbil. “God willing, we will become like the other peoples of the world. We will have freedom and have a state.”

Turkey threatened retaliation but has kept the Kurdish oil export pipeline that crosses its territory open.

Tehran and Ankara fear the spread of separatism to their own Kurds. Iran also supports Shi‘ite groups who have been ruling or holding key security and government positions in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The Iraqi Kurds say the vote acknowledges their crucial contribution in confronting Islamic State after it overwhelmed the Iraqi army in 2014 and seized control of a third of Iraq.

The Kurds are the largest ethnic group left stateless when Britain and France, the colonial powers which won World War One, carved up the Ottoman empire. The region’s roughly 30 million ethnic Kurds were left scattered, mainly over four countries: Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.

All of them suffered persecution and were often denied the right to speak their language. Those in Iraq were uprooted under Saddam Hussein’s regime and suffered an attack using chemical weapons.

Syria is embroiled in a devastating civil war and its Kurds are pressing ahead with their own self-determination.

Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Nick Macfie

Students Occupy Barcelona University in Support of Secession

September 23, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish media report that several hundred students have spent the night inside a Barcelona university to protest the government’s efforts to stop a referendum over Catalonia’s secession from the country.

The protesters have said on social media that pro-independence politicians are expected to give talks at Barcelona University on Saturday.

Jordi Vives, a spokesman for the students, told Catalan public television: “We are showing that as students we have a part to play and that for now we are staying put.”

The remaining students were hold-outs from a group of about 2,000 that gathered in and around the university Friday. Several hundred occupied a central cloister near the offices of the dean and other university managers.

Spain’s Constitutional Court has suspended the Oct. 1 vote while judges assess its legality.

China think tank calls for antisecession law after Hong Kong riot

February 16, 2016

February 16, 2016 11:36 pm JST

HONG KONG (Kyodo) — Hong Kong should pass antisecession legislation as its current laws fall short of what it needed to protect China’s national security, a Chinese legal expert said Tuesday, a week after the former British colony’s most chaotic protest since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Rao Geping, deputy director of the Institute of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, a Beijing think tank, told Hong Kong reporters in Beijing that Hong Kong has a long-overdue obligation to legislate such a law.

“Hong Kong’s current laws on protecting national security are incomprehensive,” said Rao, who is also member of the Basic Law Committee which advises China’s national legislature on interpretations of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution that has been in effect for the last 18 years.

“Through the Mongkok incident, we can see clearly the need to protect national security. Hong Kong’s security is not only to be seen as a local issue, but also in a general sense a national security issue,” he said.

Rao was referring to last week’s violence in the territory’s busiest spot that left some 130 people injured, including around 90 police officers.

“Shouldn’t Hong Kong society, through the Mongkok incident, further recognize the need to speed up the Article 23 legislation to finish the job that should have been done long ago?” he asked rhetorically.

In 2003, the Hong Kong government of then Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa shelved plans to enact an antisecession law after an estimated 500,000 people took to the streets in protest, marking the largest mass demonstration since the handover. The current administration of Leung Chun-ying has said there is no plan for such legislation during its term that ends in 2017.

Article 23 of the Basic Law stipulates that Hong Kong “shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion” against Beijing, to prohibit foreign political groups from taking part in local political activities and local organizations from establishing ties with foreign political groups.

Hundreds of protesters faced off with police on the night of Feb. 8 after street vendors were said to be facing removal, when they usually would be allowed to sell during the lunar New Year holidays.

The confrontation turned violent when protesters threw glass bottles and bricks dug up from the walkway at police, who were seen struggling to defend themselves on various occasions. The crowds dispersed after police reinforcements arrived early the next day.

The Security Bureau said some 700 people had rallied for the protest and about 2,000 bricks had been dug up from the ground.

Thirty-nine of 69 people arrested have been prosecuted on rioting charges and barred from entering a specified area in Mongkok until their next court appearance in April.

Five journalists were also among the 130 people injured. One of them alleged police had beaten him, with the rest being attacked by the protesters.

Condemning the violent nature of the protest, pro-democracy parties have also pointed fingers at Leung’s administration as being the root of the unrest, blaming it for neglecting social injustice that has fueled rage.

“Most people in the society have strongly condemned the rioters for the behavior,” Leung told the press. “We cannot magnify the behavior of some 60 rioters and their radical demands into problems of the whole society. They do not represent Hong Kong as a whole, especially not Hong Kong’s young people.”

Hong Kong Indigenous, a radical group blamed for inciting the Mongkok protest, advocates preserving “local Hong Kong values” that it says have been eroding under Beijing’s tight grip over the years.

Rao warned against such proponents of “localism,” saying, “Should they endorse the idea of ‘de-mainland-ization’ and separation from China, the localists could become a destructive force of secession.”

But he added that the process and timing for the antisecession law legislation should be decided by Hong Kong society.

Hong Kong: Under national security law, Hongkongers free to call for an end to the “Communist Party’s dictatorship”: Elsie Leung

May 10, 2015

Tony Cheung
South China Morning Post

Elsie Leung Oi-sie. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Hong Kong people will continue to be free to attend political assemblies and call for an end to “the Communist Party’s dictatorship”, should the government make its own national security law in Hong Kong, a former justice secretary said this morning.

Elsie Leung Oi-sie, now the vice-chairwoman of the National People’s Congress’ Basic Law Committee, was responding to queries about a new draft of Beijing’s national security law.

In that document, Beijing has for the first time highlighted Hong Kong’s obligations, raising the prospect of renewed pressure on the city to get moving on its own law to ban acts of “treason, secession, sedition or subversion”, as stipulated under the Basic Law’s Article 23.

But University of Hong Kong constitutional law expert Professor Michael Davis said the mainland law could not be applied in Hong Kong unless it was added to the Basic Law’s Annex III.

Speaking on a TVB interview, Leung said that the Hong Kong government will be consulted if Beijing wants to add its new national security law to Annex III, but neither she nor local ministers have heard of such plans.

Leung added that in case the mainland law was added to the annex, Hong Kong will need to make its own national security law, as the current legislation is relatively “out-of-date” and there are differences between the laws, habits and civil rights in Hong Kong and in the mainland.

When asked whether a local version of the national security law could prohibit Hongkongers from challenging the Communist Party’s rule, Leung said: “If you really have the thoughts and actions to overthrow the Communist Party’s leadership and its regime, I think it is subversion and illegal … But even the Article 23 bill paid attention to safeguarding human rights, and stated that it takes both a motive and an act to constitute a crime.”

For more than two decades, scores of Hongkongers have gathered in Victoria Park on June Fourth to remember the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and called for an end to the Communists’ “one-party dictatorship”, but Leung believes that assemblies such as the annual vigil will not be affect by a new national security law,

“The Basic Law’s Chapter three protects the people’s freedoms and no law shall contradict it,” Leung said. “Does chanting slogans sufficiently constitute to subversion? Are there actions? If it is subversion, they would have been prosecuted every year.

“But for the 18 years since the handover, they were never prosecuted,” she added.

Leung also said a person is unlikely to be prosecuted for political writings either, as “there have been a lot of newspaper articles or public comments made in public forums or on electronic media [that] showed discontent [towards the government] or about overthrowing the Communist regime, but there has never been any prosecution although … we do have the legislation in place [against] sedition.”

In Hong Kong: Time to talk security and democracy — Should the two sides negotiate a quid pro quo?

May 8, 2015

By Alex Lo
South China Morning Post


There is a frightful symmetry in the way the opposing political camps in Hong Kong cherry-pick in their interpretations of the Basic Law.

The pan-democrats are justifiably upset about the lack of progress towards “genuine” democracy. Beijing likewise is displeased with the city’s dragging its feet over the implementation of public security laws.

It would be hard to overstate which side is more resistant to implementing what the other regards as essential to the city’s healthy political development.

The Basic Law expressly states that both full democracy and the need to safeguard security and territorial integrity are our constitutional responsibilities. Articles 45 and 68 state universal suffrage is the ultimate goal for the respective elections of the chief executive and the Legislative Council. Article 23 stipulates the enactment of laws against treason, secession, sedition, subversion as well as foreign political influences.

So, you can hardly blame Beijing for being impatient. Now, almost two decades after the handover, it has for the first time highlighted Hong Kong’s obligations under a new draft of the national security law to enact its own relevant legislation. It has been extremely lenient after it allowed the Tung Chee-hwa administration to shelve it in 2003 following a massive rally of half a million people.

But if you emphasise “one country”, you are ideologically inclined or favourable towards Article 23, even if it means going against public opinion in Hong Kong. But if you are committed to “two systems”, only full and fair democracy could guarantee our autonomy. The problem is that we are supposed to square the circle with “one country two systems”.

The pan-dems are set to veto the government’s electoral reform package; they are understandably critical of its restrictive framework imposed by Beijing’s edict. We would then be sent back to square one in our democratic development.

Since universal suffrage and national security are top priorities for both sides and will not be compromised, they should now be inextricably linked. The two sides should negotiate a quid pro quo. If Beijing has a security guarantee in Hong Kong, it may be more open to a system of free elections in future.