Hong Kong pro-independence protesters fly a British Hong Kong colonial flag at a rally in July last year. Premier Li poured cold water on the prospect of independence for the city in his work report to the NPC on Sunday. Photo: Asia Times
Hong Kong pro-independence protesters fly a British Hong Kong colonial flag at a rally in July last year. Premier Li poured cold water on the prospect of independence for the city in his work report to the NPC on Sunday. Photo: Asia Times

‘No future’ for Hong Kong independence

Premier Li addresses the subject of independence for the city for the first time while promising to adhere to one country, two systems

March 5, 2017 2:21 PM (UTC+8)

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang ruled out any chance of independence for Hong Kong while promising that the central government will ensure the principle of one country, two systems remains unchanged in the city.

Speaking to delegates at the NPC, Li said the one country, two systems principle would not be shaken, changed or distorted.

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“We will support the chief executives and governments of Hong Kong and Macau to administrate the two special administrative regions according to the law and develop the economy, improve people’s livelihoods and promote harmony,” he said.

The central government will push forward the development planning of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Big Bay Area project, he said.

“There is no future for Hong Kong independence,” he said.

It is the first time Li has mentioned Hong Kong independence in his work report.

Last September, six localist candidates, including Youngspiration’s Sixtus Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, won seats in the Legislative Council election. Leung and Yau used language deemed derogatory to describe China when they took their oaths in October.

In November, the NPC Standing Committee passed an interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law, which relates to oaths taken by lawmakers. Leung and Yau were disqualified as Legco members by the High Court.

High degree of autonomy

In March 2014, Li avoided the phrase “high degree of autonomy” when referring to Hong Kong in the government work report, fueling the speculation that Beijing would increase its intervention in the former British colony. In June, the State Council issued a white paper, which stated that “the high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR is not full autonomy, nor a decentralized power.” 

In August 2014, the NPC Standing Committee announced reforms for the 2017 chief executive election, but the package was roundly criticized by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp as a “fake universal suffrage” because Beijing has the power to screen the candidates.

The so-called “831 decision” was the trigger for the Umbrella movement on September 28, 2014 as hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters occupied the streets in Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay for 79 days.

Li had used the phrase “high degree of autonomy” in his work reports of the past two years and repeated the words on Sunday. In March 2015, he also added the terms “promote harmony” and “push forward democracy” in the Hong Kong session of his speech.

However, the political reform package, which was proposed by the Hong Kong government and based on the 831 decision, was voted down in the city’s Legislative Council in May.

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