Three localist lawmakers — Nathan Law Kwun-chung of Demosistō party, Chan Chi-chuen of People Power, and independent representative Eddie Chu Hoi-dick — went to Taiwan this month to attend the founding ceremony of the “Taiwan Congressional Hong Kong Caucus”.
Spearheaded by Taiwan legislator Huang Kuo-chang of the New Power Party (NPP), an independence-leaning political force arising from the island’s so-called Sunflower Student Movement in 2014, the alliance aims to enhance exchanges between social activists in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
However, the initiative has deeply upset Beijing, which immediately mobilized pro-establishment lawmakers in Hong Kong to mount an all-out onslaught against it.
Apart from Legco president Andrew Leung Kwun-yuen, all 39 pro-establishment lawmakers last week strongly condemned the three localist lawmakers who went to Taiwan, accusing them of advocating Hong Kong’s secession from the mainland and colluding with Taiwanese separatists.
Among them, Elizabeth Quat of the Democratic Alliance on the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said all those who are seeking Hong Kong’s self-determination (i.e. localist groups) should be seen as separatists as well.
However, several pro-establishment lawmakers who had signed the petition told the media privately that they were in fact not in favor of the petition because they believed it was an overreaction, but they still had to fall into line on Beijing’s order.
True, aligning themselves with radical Taiwanese lawmakers might not be a good idea in itself, but the three localist lawmakers, they said, had never publicly endorsed Hong Kong or Taiwan’s independence.
As such, labeling them as separatists or even treasoners is not only unconvincing in the public eye, but may also further alienate and radicalize young voters.
Some in the localist camp also shared a similar view, as they pointed out that helping Hong Kong to seek independence is never on the agenda of the caucus. In fact the NPP doesn’t even want to get involved in the issue of Hong Kong separatism at all.
Just look at the fact that NPP has repeatedly dissociated from Lee Sin-yi, the Hong Kong girl who was awaiting trial for taking part in the Mongkok riot, and who jumped bail and fled to Taiwan in January and disappeared since then, and you can tell that the NPP is avoiding the sensitive issue of Hong Kong’s independence, the localists said.
That said, as the three localist lawmakers’ Taiwan trip has already crossed the Beijing red line, the prospect of Hong Kong’s incoming chief executive, Carrie Lam, extending an olive branch to localist groups after July 1 in order to seek reconciliation has now probably become even slimmer.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 16
Translation by Alan Lee
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