BEIJING • China has warned Hong Kong it would not tolerate anyone using the city to damage mainland stability as concerns grow over a rising independence movement.
In an interview with state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday, the head of China's liaison office in Hong Kong, Mr Zhang Xiaoming, said that controlling the city's independence movement requires "bottom line awareness" among its people.
"As for Hong Kong, no one is permitted to engage in any form of activity that harms national sovereignty and security, or challenges the authority of the central government or Hong Kong's Basic Law, or uses Hong Kong to infiltrate and subvert the mainland's social and political stability," Mr Zhang said.
"These are the three bottom lines," he added.
Tensions have flared in the territory after the ousting of some pro-independence lawmakers ignited fresh concern over Beijing's tightening control of Hong Kong.
Thousands of protesters, who were chanting "Sovereignty belongs to the people!", marched on the streets on New Year's Day to protest against a move to oust four popularly elected legislators, who led the rally. Organisers said 9,150 people attended, while police estimated a maximum of 4,800.
Number of people who attended the New Year's Day protest, according to its organisers.
The four are the latest targets of the government move which pro-democracy parties describe as a witch hunt. It came after the city's courts ousted two pro-independence lawmakers for failing to swear their oaths of office correctly, a move backed by Beijing.
The Hong Kong government now wants to bar the other four legislators for alleged breaches in their swearing-in ceremony and in their oaths of allegiance.
Chinese President Xi Jinping told Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying late last month that China's central government strongly supports efforts by the Hong Kong government to curb moves by some promoting independence for the territory.
The city's unpopular leader, who has been vilified by critics as a puppet of Beijing, has announced that he would not run again for office.
A 1,200-strong pro-Beijing committee in the territory will elect the next leader in March.
The rally also sought to raise funds for the four lawmakers to fight the government's challenge in court.
The two ousted pro-independence lawmakers separately announced last week they were making a final legal bid to overturn their exclusion from the legislature.
Separately, a smaller pro-mainland rally took place on Sunday.
Mr Fu Chun Chung, chairman of the Defend Hong Kong Campaign, called for more measures to fight against so-called "Hong Kong self-determination" and "Hong Kong independence."
Mr Patrick Ko, chairman of another group, Voice of Loving Hong Kong, said his group would organise more trips to the Chinese mainland to boost the youth's understanding of the country.
The former British colony was returned to China under the "one China, two systems" agreement that ensured its freedoms and wide-ranging autonomy, including a separate legal system.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE,REUTERS,XINHUA