Beijing will use only law and public opinion but not force to handle the pro-independence drive in Hong Kong, says Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu.
The development came a day after Basic Law Committee vice-chairman Zhang Rongshun was quoted by pro-Beijing barrister Lawrence Ma Yan-kwok as saying that the Chinese government would be able to handle the issue with “guns and cannons” if activists gathered enough strength to make Hong Kong an independent state.
Pan-democrats said Zhang’s reported remarks had swept away the relatively relaxed atmosphere deliberately created by National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang during his visit to the city last week.
In a bid to cool the outcry, Tam, who attended the same closed-door meeting with Zhang Rongshun in Beijing alongside Ma, tried to clarify the legal expert’s stance.
She said Zhang’s remarks were mixed up and emphasised that his conclusion was that only law and public opinion would be used to handle the independence issue.
“He has ruled out using swords, guns and force … so the public do not have to worry about the problem of ‘guns and cannons’,” Tam told RTHK’s City Forum on Sunday.
Tam, a Hong Kong delegate to the national legislature, also said the city should handle the independence issue itself despite its controversial nature. Neither Hongkongers nor Beijing wanted to see the central government take the lead, she said.
Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan, also the convenor of 23 pan-democratic lawmakers, demanded a clarification from Ma as two versions of the story had now emerged.
Meanwhile, Chan Ho-tin, convenor of the fledgling Hong Kong National Party, which advocates Hong Kong breaking away from China, remained defiant despite the threat of military action.
“Hong Kong is too important to China. I don’t believe the Chinese would destroy it,” said Chan, adding: “Hong Kong people would not be afraid of fighting to the end if their land is invaded.”
His party launched its debut public campaign on Sunday. The one-day event saw members set up booths in six locations across the territory to distribute leaflets to promote the party, formed in March.
Chan said he was pleased with the public response.
Meanwhile at Sunday’s City Forum, the pro-democracy camp remained split over whether it was appropriate for four pan-democrat lawmakers to meet Zhang Dejiang last Wednesday.
Nathan Law Kwun-chung, the chairman of the newly-formed group Demosisto, said dialogue with Beijing officials should be built on the dignity of Hongkongers.
Ho, one of the four pan-democrats who met the state official, said the camp had wanted to raise their dissatisfaction with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to Zhang directly, adding that restarting the political reform process was the only way for the city to end the current impasse.