22 March 2019

Are Beijing loyalists smart enough to handle independence issue?

Anyone but CY. Anytime but now.

Leung Chun-ying has rarely had it so perfectly put together for him — or against him.

He is juicing the “Hong Kong independence” theme while his Beijing loyalist allies and critics are all over each other trying to save him or get rid of him.

None of these skirmishes will directly affect him for another year but these could lay the groundwork for a second five-year term.

That’s because the Sept. 4 Legislative Council elections, which are the catalyst for the latest jockeying by Beijing’s lackeys, could potentially turn things upside down.

But before anyone gets too excited, it’s useful to remember that Beijing does not want the distraction of a Hong Kong independence debate.

With the possibility of separatist-leaning candidates winning the sympathy vote from a disaffected electorate, central officials want no mention of the “i-word” from their surrogates — at least until after the elections.

The Electoral Affairs Commission has already done its part by weeding out independence supporters but a few remain in the running.

So after days of official condemnations of nativists, separatists and secessionists, education chief Eddie Ng surprised us with a duty visit to the mainland to meet with his Beijing bosses and counterparts.

The trip was purportedly to exchange views on education. 

As it turned out, Ng received instructions on how to deal with the subject of Hong Kong secession in our schools.

The bottom line is that the matter is not to be discussed in the classroom and any teacher who advocates it will lose their registration.

But senior Beijing officials were careful not to be seen too embroiled in the issue, lest they provoke the kind of backlash that could blow away their favored candidates.

A great majority of Hong Kong people don’t support independence but they want to be left alone by Beijing.

That includes central officials keeping an arm’s length from their children over patriotic education and Beijing police not meddling in Hong Kong law enforcement.

And that means respect for “one country, two systems” and the Basic Law as originally envisaged by their creators.

By forbidding any discussion of independence whether in a classroom, in a public forum, in writing etc., Beijing officials and their Hong Kong henchmen are in breach of those sacred documents.

Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong is an “inalienable part of China” but freedom of expression is protected by Hong Kong’s mini constitution.

Such contradiction should be settled at the highest levels, not as an election issue.

But Leung is completely incapable of standing up to his bosses on behalf of his constituents, even if we accept that he owes his appointment to Beijing.

For example, it’s still a mystery why Ng secretly visited Beijing on Friday.

Was it to brief officials on his plan to crush any discussion of Hong Kong independence in classrooms?

If so, did Ng conveniently forget that it is illegal for China to intervene in Hong Kong affairs, except in diplomacy and defense?

Not to be outdone, Beijing loyalists keen to show who is boss (sovereign, they call it) are pushing their own radical solutions.

On Monday, Executive Councilor Fanny Law, a former education minister, said pro-independence supporters should have their family background investigated by their respective schools.

It was yet more proof that Beijing loyalists don’t get it. They are confusing sovereignty with academic freedom and free speech.

Rarely have we seen anything so simple so misunderstood. 

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EJ Insight writer

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