High time we curb HK separatist frenzy

By Tian Anlan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/18 21:26:22

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT



 

Hong Kong people like talking about freedom. In the 1980s and 1990s, they discussed freedom to make money. In recent years, they've focused on freedom of speech, an inclusive term which could be abused. Lately local separatist forces in the city under the guise of freedom of speech have been preaching "Hong Kong independence" at universities. Some so-called liberals, invoking freedom of speech, speak up for these radicals and even think that "Hong Kong independence" can be negotiated.

Talk of splitting the motherland was once forbidden in Hong Kong. These voices have become popular in the city this year owing to the shield of freedom of speech. After the failure of the Occupy Central movement, some radicals hyped "Hong Kong independence," which also began in universities.

At first, articles supporting "Hong Kong independence" were published in college magazines, followed by so-called academic discussion. With the help of some media, these voices went public.

Then radical forces launched demonstrations espousing separatism which has become the appeal of some candidates in the elections. Separatist voices reached a climax when they insulted the Chinese mainland at the swearing-in ceremony for the sixth Legislative Council of Hong Kong in October 2016.

It was only after the interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law and the disqualification of six radical legislators that popular pro-independence clamor subsided. Nevertheless, the pro-independence forces in Hong Kong were not wiped out, and instead they improved relations with overseas forces. Radical voices and deeds at Hong Kong universities prove separatist forces will not easily give up.

Heads of 10 Hong Kong universities issued a joint statement criticizing the pro-independence voices. However, Hong Kong law enforcers have not taken any action. And some say the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) should not intervene too much and pressure the universities.

Although it is normal for Hong Kong, a pluralistic society, to have different voices, the city should stick to its bottom line of rule of law in the face of "Hong Kong independence."

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a barrister and senior counsel, said freedom of speech was not an excuse to violate laws. He cited Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression is subject to certain restrictions such as "for the protection of national security or public order."

As a city short on natural resources, the rule of law is what the city should treasure. However, some scholars publicly support violating the law for righteousness, meaning that laws can be ignored and the interests of Hong Kong society can be compromised for the sake of so-called righteousness. They encouraged Hong Kong students to participate in "civil disobedience": the refusal to comply with laws on moral grounds, shaking the foundation of Hong Kong society.

In August, a Hong Kong court jailed three student activists including Joshua Wong for six to eight months.

Some opposition politicians in the city attacked this as politically motivated, triggering a response from lawyers in Hong Kong.

The Law Society of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Bar Association issued a joint statement in which they said that "unfounded comments on judicial decisions politically motivated originating from outside Hong Kong are unjustified and damaging to our legal system and to Hong Kong as a whole."

This rare statement reflects the mainstream concerns of Hong Kong society over the opposition parties' continuous attacks on the order and foundation of rule of law.

Hong Kong is about to enter another crucial election period. Will pro-independence forces make separatist proposals in the election? Will some legislators-elect, taking advantage of their position, play up "Hong Kong independence" in the Hong Kong Legislative Council? Should Hong Kong society condone pro-independence forces under the guise of freedom of speech? Should law enforcers take no action or act in accordance with the law in the face of pro-independence forces?

On July 1 at a meeting celebrating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland and the inaugural ceremony of the fifth government of the HKSAR, President Xi Jinping said that "Hong Kong needs to improve its systems to uphold national sovereignty, security and development interests." With separatist forces frequently threatening the bottom line, it is time that Hong Kong perfect "its system to uphold national sovereignty, security and development interests."

It is time to draft Hong Kong's Anti-Secession Law to curb the separatist frenzy and ensure the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.

The author is a senior observer in Hong Kong. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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