Former top adviser to the government Lau Siu-kai has warned that any ties between Hong Kong’s democracy leaders and Taiwan’s pro-independence camp might prompt a crackdown from Beijing.
The remarks came after five Hong Kong politicians attended a press conference in Taipei on Monday to announce a new Taiwan Congressional Hong Kong Caucus to foster ties between legislators in both territories. The caucus consists of Taiwanese lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the independence-leaning New Power Party.
The move has attracted heavy criticism from pro-China newspapers. Beijing mouthpiece Ta Kung Pao accused the two “pro-independence forces” of attempting to stir chaos in Hong Kong and Taiwan in order to achieve the “evil goal” of splitting the country.
Activist Joshua Wong, who attended the Taipei press conference, dismissed claims that they were “colluding with Taiwan independence forces.”
“[My party] Demosisto has never called for Hong Kong independence, but people still keep saying that we advocate independence,” he said during a Commercial Radio programme on Tuesday.
Asked to explain the difference between self-determination – which Demosisto promotes – and independence, Wong said: “Hongkongers have the right to decide the city’s political future… Our discussion has always been about Hong Kong’s democracy and never about the issue of national sovereignty.”
But Lau said it matters little what Wong and his allies think of their position.
He said even if they do not consider themselves to be pro-independence, as long as they work with Taiwan independence advocates, Beijing would be motivated to crack down on groups perceived to advocate separatism or Hong Kong independence, RTHK reported.
He said Taiwan’s pro-independence forces such as the New Power Party want to interfere in Hong Kong’s internal affairs and use Hong Kong’s localist camp to strengthen their power.
Lau warned that Beijing may be prompted to ask the Hong Kong government to legislate the Article 23 anti-subversion laws, or even introduce Chinese laws in the city.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan said in response: “It is a minority of people with a certain agenda who distort the initiative and call it collusion between two pro-independence forces. They even call for the legislation of Article 23 to block these initiatives. It is absolutely smearing.”
Democratic Party lawmaker James To said it is understandable for some politicians to want to build closer ties with Taiwanese lawmakers, even though he disagrees with the move.
“[Chief Executive] CY Leung’s leadership has nurtured support for self-determination and independence. The rise of these thoughts is completely caused by the failure of Leung and Beijing officials in Hong Kong to faithfully implement the Basic Law,” he said. “The responsibility clearly lies on them.”
— Ray Chan (@slowbeat_chan) June 13, 2017
On Tuesday, Leung said the government must suppress any form of separation before it takes root. He urged society to stay vigilant about any expression suggestive of “gradual separatism,” even if it does not explicitly advocate independence.