A lawyers group from Hong Kong met with two senior Beijing officials on Tuesday and expressed concerns over pressing issues including “one country, two systems”.
Paul Lam Ting-kwok, chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association, said the meeting took place with Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee and deputy secretary general of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) and Zhang Xiaoming, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
The talks centered on the “one country, two systems” principle, the co-location plan proposed by the government for the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link and the local legislation of the new national anthem law, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The co-location plan has been criticized for “ceding land” to China. It will allow part of the West Kowloon terminus of the rail link to be under the jurisdiction of mainland border control officials. The national anthem law is seen as restricting freedom of speech.
The group told Li that the government’s “three-step process” for the co-location plan is questionable.
Li responded that Article 18 of the Basic Law, which provides that mainland laws cannot apply in Hong Kong, is not applicable to the co-location plan.
Lam said both parties also discussed Article 20, which allows Hong Kong to enjoy other powers granted to it by the NPCSC.
Hong Kong people should focus on why the city needs the express link from the perspective of history and economic benefits, Lam quoted Li as saying.
As for the national anthem law, the group told Li that the Hong Kong version of the law must be clearly defined. The group told Li that it will watch how the national anthem law will affect Hongkongers’ much cherished freedom of speech.
Lam quoted Li as saying that many countries have their own national anthem laws and that Macau has enacted its own legislation without any controversy.
The comments came after some local football fans booed the Chinese national anthem during a 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying match between Hong Kong and Lebanon on Tuesday night and last Thursday between Hong Kong and Bahrain.
Pui Kwan-kay, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Football Association, told the media after the game that he was not surprised to hear the boos again but he was aware the volume was smaller this time.
Meanwhile, Lam said Zhang Xiaoming, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, stressed Beijing’s resolve to uphold the “one country, two systems” principle.
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