Does Hong Kong still enjoy freedom of expression, or more to the point, is it free to make friends in Taiwan?
There could be no definite answer after Beijing criticized a group of Hong Kong lawmakers for supporting a Taiwan-led alliance on democracy.
That triggered allegations by the pro-Beijng camp that the alliance is a joint independence force by certain lawmakers from both sides to challenge Beijing and its “one China policy”. It accused the Hong Kong legislators of violating their oath of office.
Based on that, Beijing loyalists want Nathan Law, Chu Hoi-dick and Ray Chan, who are labelled as pro-independence politicians, to be ousted from the legislature on the grounds that they are a threat to China’s national security.
Pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao criticised the Taiwanese lawmakers who are spearheading the alliance for blatantly interfering in Hong Kong’s internal affairs. It said Hong Kong is a matter for Beijing alone.
However, what the Taiwan lawmakers want to do is their own business, so in that case, Beijing is trying to poke its nose in their backyard.
The pro-Beijing camp is using an old tactic to deal with the collaboration between the pro-independence camps of Hong Kong and Taiwan by using an out-of-date argument to set the bottom line.
For example, Business and Professionals Alliance lawmaker Priscilla Leung said the collaboration highlights the need to introduce national security legislation in Hong Kong.
If three local lawmakers showing up at a press conference in Taiwan can threaten the national security of China, then the “motherland” is simply too weak to be Hong Kong’s sovereign.
Hong Kong people are clever enough to understand the rationale behind the collaboration between the Hong Kong and Taiwanese lawmakers in pushing for Hong Kong democracy.
The alliance shows the muscle of the pro-independence camp in dealing with overseas politicians and bring Hong Kong issues beyond Hong Kong, as well as raise political awareness.
Hong Kong people also have the right to know how the Taiwan experience can help to achieve Hong Kong democracy.
Such discussions could be more like academic sharing rather than an action plan that can affect the national security of China.
But Hong Kong people know Hong Kong’s fate is tied to Beijing, not Taiwan, or any country in the world.
Hongkongers may not like to express their patriotic feelings publicly but deep in their minds, they believe that Hong Kong cannot be separated from China.
That should be enough for Beijing to stop worrying about the growing independence movement.
In fact, it’s a non-issue raised by outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying two years ago without providing concrete evidence, using it as a tool to attack a small group of politicians who prefers to maintain the uniqueness of Hong Kong rather than fully embrace China.
Speaking to reporters before the weekly Executive Council meeting, Leung said Hong Kong cannot be complacent in its response to calls for various degrees of self-determination, including separatism and outright independence.
However, Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam is convinced that the idea of Hong Kong independence is supported by very few people and has not gained ground as a popular ideology.
Still, Leung insists Hong Kong must adopt a clear and strong stance against calls for self-determination, as the notion violates the Basic Law.
But it is not appropriate for Leung to talk about Taiwan independence. The more he talks on this issue, the more pushback he gets from Taiwan people. That could further drive Taiwan away from Beijing.
In fact, if Beijing strongly believes that “one country, two systems” has achieved significant results in the past two decades, top leaders should welcome opposition lawmakers to make friends with their Taiwan counterparts without fear of upending the system.
But can Beijing do that?
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