The director of Beijing’s office in Hong Kong has praised a local court’s decision to convict nine activists in relation to the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.
“April 9 is undoubtedly an important day for demonstrating Hong Kong’s rule of law,” said Wang Zhimin on Monday. “A lot of citizens feel that this is a victory for Hong Kong, a victory for rule of law. They feel that after 1,654 days there is finally a just verdict.”
Last week, nine leading activists were found guilty of public nuisance charges in relation to the 79-day protests in 2014, and could now face up to seven years behind bars. They will be sentenced next Wednesday.
Speaking at a forum hosted by the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute, Wang drew a direct connection between the verdict and national security.
“The pain of Occupy Central is the pain of Hong Kong’s core value of the rule of law. It reminds us that we need to tackle the shortcomings and risk points in Hong Kong’s system of upholding national security,” he said.
While he stopped short of asking for the legislation of Basic Law Article 23 – which requires Hong Kong to enact laws to ensure national security – Wang said the city had no special exemption when it comes to protecting national security.
Wang’s comments were echoed by Deng Zhonghua, a deputy director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, who came to Hong Kong to attend the forum.
At the event, Chief Executive Carrie Lam also revealed that she was in the final stages of compiling a report on the ban of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP).
In February, the central government made a rare request to the chief executive asking for a report on the incident. Lam said on Monday that she would seek to publicise the report’s contents, so long as the move would not affect ongoing legal proceedings.
As for Basic Law Article 23, Lam said that the government would make a move when the time is right but gave no specifics.
‘Conspiring with anti-China forces’
Wang also criticised some parties as colluding with foreign countries and “doing everything they can to smear Hong Kong.”
“Some countries with ulterior motives want to use Hong Kong as leverage against China,” he said, adding that the national security landscape China faces is the “most complex” since the end of the Cold War.
“There is a very small number of Hongkongers who conspire with anti-China politicians and groups, holding secret meetings and talks… This type of behaviour, of using Hong Kong taxpayers’ money to sell out Hong Kong, will be scorned by the people of Hong Kong, by all Chinese people and by our ancestors.”
While Wang did not criticise individuals by name, his comments came after a high-profile trip to the United States by three democrats last month. Former chief secretary Anson Chan, pro-democracy lawmakers Charles Mok and Dennis Kwok met with top figures such as Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Chan said after the trip that the Hong Kong government has a responsibility to assuage the fears of foreign leaders, who were questioning the health of the city’s One Country, Two Systems arrangement.
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