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 came ahead of what is expected to effectively be a ruling by Beijing on the fate of two newly elected Hong Kong legislators, Yau Wai-ching (游蕙禎) and Sixtus “Baggio” Leung (梁頌恆) of the Youngspiration party, who last month pledged allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation” and displayed a “Hong Kong is not China” banner when they attempted to take office.
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 colony, where the topic of independence from China was once regarded as taboo, but has come to the fore since months of pro-democracy protests in 2014 failed to secure any concessions from Beijing.
The Xinhua news agency yesterday said that leaders of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s parliament, had begun to review a “draft interpretation” of part of Hong Kong’s Basic Law over the weekend. The article requires 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.
The parliamentary meeting ends tomorrow, Xinhua said.
The People’s Daily editorial said calls for 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.
Such action “seriously touches the bottom line of ‘one country, two systems,’ endangers national unity, territorial integrity and national security, jeopardizes 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,” the newspaper 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, including once when neither the territory government nor its courts requested it.
After the abortive swearing-in of Yau and Leung, Hong Kong’s chief executive filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent another ceremony for them taking place.
Hong Kong’s High Court struck down that request, but approved a judicial review of the pair’s membership of the legislature.
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