Calls for HK independence 'insult to China'

Advocates are in violation of laws and not qualified for public office: People's Daily

SHANGHAI • People who advocate Hong Kong independence are in violation of the territory's laws and China's Constitution, and are not qualified to stand for public office, the Chinese Communist Party's top newspaper said yesterday.

The comments in the People's Daily come ahead of what is expected to effectively be a ruling by Beijing on the fate of two newly elected Hong Kong legislators. The pair had pledged allegiance to the "Hong Kong nation" and displayed a "Hong Kong is not China" banner when they first attempted to take office last month.

Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese control in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that gave the territory wide-ranging autonomy, including judicial freedom.

The oath-taking incident made waves in the former British colony, where the topic of independence from China was once regarded as taboo but has percolated to the fore since months of pro-democracy protests in 2014 failed to secure any concessions from Beijing.

Leaders of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature, yesterday reviewed a "draft explanation" of the section of Hong Kong's mini-Constitution that stipulates the need for Hong Kong legislators and other officials to swear allegiance to "the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China" when assuming office.

Such action "seriously touches the bottom line of 'one country, two systems', endangers national unity, territorial integrity and national security, jeopardises the nation's core interests and the basic interests of the majority of Hong Kong residents, and is vile in nature", said the People's Daily editorial.

The People's Daily editorial said calls for Hong Kong independence by the Hong Kong lawmakers-elect and others were an insult to China and a violation of the national Constitution and the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-Constitution.

Such action "seriously touches the bottom line of 'one country, two systems', endangers national unity, territorial integrity and national security, jeopardises the nation's core interests and the basic interests of the majority of Hong Kong residents, and is vile in nature", it said.

"The heart of the issue is that anyone who splits the nation or promotes 'Hong Kong independence' is directly violating the Constitution, the Basic Law and related Hong Kong laws, and is unqualified to stand for election or hold public office provided for in the Basic Law," it added.

An interpretation of the Basic Law by the NPC Standing Committee would be completely legal, "extremely timely, extremely necessary, of great importance and have far-reaching effect", it said.

The NPC Standing Committee has interpreted the Basic Law four times since 1997.

After the abortive swearing-in ceremony by Ms Yau Wai Ching, 25, and Mr Sixtus "Baggio" Leung, 30, Hong Kong's chief executive filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against them getting another chance. Hong Kong's High Court struck down that request but approved a judicial review hearing over the pair's membership of the legislature.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 06, 2016, with the headline 'Calls for HK independence 'insult to China''. Print Edition | Subscribe