HIGH-LEVEL Beijing lawmakers have effectively intervened in Hong Kong’s political dispute by adopting an interpretation of an article in the semi-autonomous city’s mini-constitution on oath-taking, despite protests there on Sunday.
The dispute centers on a provocative display of anti-China sentiment by two newly elected pro-independence Hong Kong lawmakers at their swearing-in ceremony last month.
In issuing the interpretation, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee said talk of independence for Hong Kong is intended to “divide the country” and severely harms the country’s unity, territorial sovereignty, and national security.
The interpretation says that those who advocate for independence for Hong Kong are not only disqualified from election and from assuming posts as lawmakers, but should also be investigated for their legal obligations.
In a statement issued on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council was quoted by Chinese news agency Xinhua as praising the adoption of an interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) as “absolutely necessary” and timely.
“The interpretation demonstrates the central government’s firm determination and will in opposing ‘Hong Kong independence’,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.
The state-owned Xinhua News Agency reported late on Saturday that the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress said Beijing could not afford to do nothing in the face of challenges in Hong Kong to China’s authority.
The legislative panel was quoted by Xinhua as saying that the pro-democracy lawmakers’ actions “posed a grave threat to national sovereignty and security”.
In October, the newly elected grassroots activists modified their oaths during the swearing-in ceremony, with one reciting the oath very slowly, and others pronouncing the word China as ‘Chee-na’, which is considered a derogatory term due to its use by the Japanese during World War II.
Two months later, two of the lawmakers – Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung of the Youngspiration party – rushed into a weekly meeting at the Legislative Council chamber in an attempt to retake their oaths.
The attempt turned into a scuffle between them, other pro-democracy lawmakers, and security guards. Starry Lee, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, criticized Yau and Leung, saying: “If [Yau and Leung] really care about the oath-taking, they shouldn’t have used the platform to promote Hong Kong independence to begin with.
On Sunday, violent clashes broke out outside the Chinese liaison office in a protest against China’s intervention and to demand the resignation of Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun Ying, the Straits Times reported.
At least 4,000 protesters engaged in an eight-hour stand-off with police which saw the authorities deploy a police tactical team and use pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
The clash led to the arrest of four protesters while one policeman was reportedly injured.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press