Hongkongers generally have a weaker sense of national identity compared to their mainland Chinese counterparts, former chief executive Leung Chun-ying said on Monday, adding that the situation needs to be rectified if the city is to prosper.
Hong Kong’s prospects will depend to a large extent on how well the city handles its relationship with Beijing, Leung said, calling on locals, particularly the youth, to gain proper understanding on the issue of national identity.
Speaking at a forum, Leung said mainland Chinese find it disturbing that Hong Kong people use the phrase “Sino-Hong Kong” when discussing ties between Hong Kong and China, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The reference is inappropriate, as it gives the impression that we are talking about two different countries, he suggested.
If a Taiwanese refers to the relationship between mainland China and Taiwan as Sino-Taiwan, then his or her stance on the cross-strait issue goes without saying, Leung said, adding that Hong Kong people should not fall into a similar trap.
During the forum, which was hosted by Hang Lung Group chairman Ronnie Chan Chi-chun to discuss China-Hong Kong relations, Leung said he had often heard complaints from mainland Chinese people that they feel very uncomfortable hearing the phrase “Sino-Hong Kong”.
The remarks made by Leung, who is currently vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body, came as Hong Kong is aiming to legislate its version of China’s new national anthem law, following a move by Beijing.
On Saturday, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed a proposal to include the new national anthem law in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini constitution.
Monday’s comments by Leung marked the first time since he demitted office at end-June that the former Hong Kong leader had publicly criticized Hongkongers for lacking national identity.
Talking about the new law, Leung said he could not understand why the students who had raised their umbrellas and turned their backs when the national anthem was playing during graduation ceremonies were not taken to task.
Also, one wonders why authorities at the educational institutions who allowed such insults to the national song were allowed to get away, he said.
Any behavior that leads to disrespecting the national anthem or national flag should be curbed, Leung said, stressing that such behavior can’t be tolerated in the name of freedom of expression.
He claimed that insulting the national anthem has tarnished Hong Kong’s image in the eyes of mainlanders.
As for Xi’s recent comments wherein he asserted Beijing’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong, Leung said there should be no controversy about that since the Basic Law clearly states that all powers enjoyed by Hong Kong are given by the central government.
Commenting on Leung’s remarks, Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a senior lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he believes that Leung was trying to put pressure on Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Hong Kong’s current chief executive, on the issue of legislating the national anthem law.
Leung clearly broke an unspoken rule that a former chief executive should refrain from being a back-seat driver on the incumbent government’s policies, Choy added.
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