Hong Kong is reminded that the freedoms it enjoys are ultimately at the whim of Beijing.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is an 18th Century trumpet call for free speech, one often repeated by parliamentarians around the world… but never in China.
The message from Beijing to its unruly territory 2,000km (1,350 miles) south is, by contrast, “we disapprove of what you say and we hereby decree that you have no right to say it”.
China has now spoken on the question of whether elected members of Hong Kong’s legislature can use that public platform to campaign for ideas offensive to China and the answer is a resounding no. In a unanimous decision by a panel of the Communist Party-controlled national parliament, Hong Kong has been reminded that the freedoms it enjoys are ultimately at the whim of Beijing.
Today’s “interpretation” of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution is one of the most significant interventions in Hong Kong’s legal system in two decades of Chinese rule. It is the first time China’s parliament, without the request of either the Hong Kong government or Court of Final Appeal, has interpreted the mini-constitution at a time when the issue is under active consideration in a Hong Kong court.
Why didn’t China’s politicians wait till after a court ruling on whether two legislators might be allowed to retake their oaths? Li Fei, the chairman of the Basic Law Committee of China’s parliament, made the logic clear when he said the Chinese government “is determined to firmly confront the pro-independence forces without any ambiguity”.
The interpretation is a highly confrontational move which plunges Hong Kong into a new phase of its long running political and constitutional crisis. But Beijing’s move comes in response to an equally confrontational move from the other side.
The two lawmakers, Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching, who used their swearing-in ceremony to insult China and talk of a “Hong Kong nation” should have known that a Chinese government so sensitive to questions of national pride and dignity would feel it had no choice but to act.
It was no surprise when China’s parliament said their words and actions had “posed a grave threat to national sovereignty and security”, with Li Fei adding: “The central government’s attitude is absolute. There will be no leniency.”
A price worth paying
The scope of Monday’s interpretation will raise inevitable questions about whether China is interpreting Hong Kong law, which is allowed, or re-writing it, which is not. And apart from disqualifying the two young legislators at the heart of the crisis, it will raise a raft of questions about the way in which some of the other newly elected young democracy activists took their oaths.
For example, does reciting the oath in slow motion or using eccentric intonation contravene the interpretation’s insistence on “genuine” sincerity and solemnity? Who will decide? And if Beijing doesn’t like the decision of a Hong Kong court, what will it do next? For that matter, where does Beijing’s intervention leave the ongoing review of the oath taking question in Hong Kong’s courts? Read the rest of this entry »
Beijing could throw its weight behind attempts by the Hong Kong government to bar two democratically elected independence activists from taking up their seats in the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo), the city’s leader has indicated.
Chief executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday that he may ask Beijing to “interpret” the city’s miniconstitution, the Basic Law, if a court review of the lawmakers’ status doesn’t go the government’s way.
Sixtus “Baggio” Leung and Yau Wai-ching of the localist group Youngspiration, who were elected to LegCo in last September’s elections, used their swearing-in ceremony last month to pledge to represent the “Hong Kong nation,” inserting swear-words, slurs, and pro-independence slogans into their oaths.
They were unable to take up their seats, as their oaths were deemed invalid by LegCo chairman Andrew Leung, and the government sought their removal from office with a judicial review in the High Court, which will be decided on Thursday.
Sixtus Leung, 30, and Yau, 25, later attempted to re-take their oaths, but were thwarted by a mass walkout of pro-Beijing LegCo members, rendering the ceremony invalid.
Leung told reporters on Tuesday that he could ask China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), to use its ultimate power to interpret the Basic Law.
“We hope to do our utmost to resolve it within Hong Kong, but we cannot rule out this possibility,” Leung said.
“Apart from the case in court….there is a high possibility that other things might be triggered by their oaths and their words and actions afterwards,” Leung said, who recently postponed a trip to Beijing pending the court’s decision. Read the rest of this entry »
At least six seats have gone to new politicians allied with Occupy and other anti-Beijing protests. Some replaced established pro-democratic politicians, who have been fighting for democracy for three decades in Hong Kong. Of the 70 seats, 55 have been announced, with 22 going to pro-democracy candidates.
Isabella Steger reports: Voters in Hong Kong showed they’re willing to put their future in the hands of politicians as young as 23, casting aside some of the most well known faces in local politics in the process.
Hong Kongers turned up in record numbers for the polls on Sunday (Sept. 4) to vote for members of the new Legislative Council. The council has long been controlled by pro-Beijing politicians, but holding on to veto power with one third of the seats is necessary for the opposition to push back against proposed legislation that could tighten the Chinese Communist Party’s over Hong Kong.
As the final results continued to roll in on Monday afternoon—counting was delayed because long queues forced polling stations to close well after the cut-off time—the after-effects of 2014’s Occupy protests, or Umbrella Movement, could already be viscerally felt.
A government standoff with students and parents determined to resist Hong Kong’s new lessons in patriotism deepened last night, as thousands of protesters gathered outside the city’s legislative complex demanding the city’s chief executive back down.
Despite calls by protesters, city leader Leung Chun-ying did not make an appearance, and government officials reiterated that the city would continue to move forward with its plans to enact “moral and national education,” which aims to foster a greater sense of patriotism among local residents. Locals worry that the plan–introduced in 2010 by previous leader Donald Tsang–will amount to a form of “brainwashing.” Government-funded education materials praising the Communist Party, distributed among schools earlier this year, have further stoked fears that the initiative will promote only a positive view of China’s one-party state.
The thousands of protestors were also assembling to support 10 hunger strikers—which included both students and retirees—who’ve been camped outside the government offices refusing food since Saturday, when up to 40,000 demonstrators rallied in the rain to resist the government’s plan. Though several have dropped out since yesterday afternoon, the rest have vowed to continue their hunger strike indefinitely outside the government offices, backed by dozens of other protesters who have also pitched tents and have been camping there to support them.
“The government ignores our feeling, so I use my body against my government,” hunger striker Ken Chan, 23, a student at City University, told the Wall Street Journal.
While the government has said it wants to listen to protesters’ views, it has refused to abandon plans for national education curriculum, despite anger over the initiative that’s roiled the city for months. Police said last night that 6,500 protesters gathered outside government offices, while organizers put the figure closer to 8,000. In July, another 90,000 residents, including stroller-pushing parents and children, also took the streets to protest the plan…
More >> via China Real Time Report