Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun has refuted self-determination advocates by arguing that, under the law, all Hong Kong SAR passport holders must have acknowledged their Chinese nationality.

Leung said Tuesday that the implied acceptance stemmed from Chinese law, which considers Hong Kong passport holders to be Chinese citizens. She criticised those who put “Hong Kong nation” stickers on their passports for being ignorant. The sticker idea is borrowed from Taiwanese independence advocates.

Priscilla Leung. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

The lawmaker made the remarks at a forum on Hong Kong identity and independence, as she faced off with activist Joshua Wong of the Demosistō party and political scientist Brian Fong Chi-hang of the Education University.

‘The wrong path’

Leung argued that self-determination is unfeasible, as only nations – which Hong Kong is not – are entitled to the right to self-determination under international law.

Advising Hongkongers to instead ask for a high degree of autonomy, Leung warned self-determination advocates against “taking the wrong path, thereby reducing what was gained by several generations to nothing.”

Wong, who supports self-determination, countered: “What Priscilla Leung meant is that we shouldn’t anger the Chinese Communist Party. But look at Macau: they don’t resist and are extremely moderate, but they also haven’t been given universal suffrage.”

The activist gave the example of him being detained by the Thai authorities in October. He said it was difficult for him to identify with the Chinese identity, given that Beijing said it “respected” the decision of Thai government.

Bangkok’s airport and Joshua Wong.

He added that many people reject the Chinese identity because they disagree with an undemocratic country run by a single party. Therefore, he said, the responsibility of mending the rift lies with those in positions of power.

Hong Kong’s next leader

Leung said that the next chief executive should be trusted by Beijing in order for governance to be effective. The conflicts between China and Hong Kong do not reflect governance issues with incumbent leader Leung Chun-ying, as such conflicts would not disappear with a new leader, Leung suggested.

Wong responded, saying that a pressing issue facing Hong Kong is the younger generations’ lack of confidence in the One Country, Two Systems policy, and that the government is responsible for resolving these conflicts.

Bring Fong said at the forum that about 81 percent of people who consider themselves as “Hongkongese” felt the city’s high ­degree of autonomy was under threat, compared to only 37 per cent of people who identify with “Chinese” who felt the same way.

The scholar said that if Beijing wants to mend the relationship with the Hong Kong public, it should allow them to protect the Cantonese language, traditional Chinese characters and other aspects that they consider important.

Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.