Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy under the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement may end if it is used to threaten China, a Beijing official based in the city has warned.

China Liaison Office legal chief Wang Zhenmin told a forum on Saturday that Beijing’s perceived interference in Hong Kong affairs merely constituted the exercise of functions to which it is entitled.

Central Liaison Office China Liaison Office
Wang Zhenmin.

“If you say your brain interferes with your hand, the latter is a part of you, so this cannot be called interference,” he said while discussing the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

He added that if the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement failed, China would only lose face, but “Hong Kong will lose its insides, its everything.”

“So from Hong Kong perspective, ‘One Country, Two Systems’ must succeed, it cannot fail.”

hong kong china flags
File photo: AFP/Peter Parks.

See also: Hongkongers make the ‘strongest insults’ against China’s system, says Beijing Liaison Office legal chief

Wang had previously told the forum that Hongkongers made stronger insults towards China’s system than any other people in the world. He called on the city to “revere” the country.

On Saturday, he said that China’s national security would be threatened by Hongkongers’ espousal of separatism, as well as the entry of pro-independence activists into the establishment and into schools.

Last year, localist lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung were democratically elected into the city’s legislature, but were later disqualified based on the controversial way they took their oaths. Pro-independence student groups were also formed in numerous secondary schools.

Disqualified lawmaker Baggio Leung raising a banner bearing the words “Hong Kong is not China” during his oath ceremony last October. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

“This casts a chill over the country,” said Wang in response to the developments.

He added that the more Hong Kong could – on its own initiative – safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, the less Beijing would worry about the city’s autonomy.

The former dean of Tsinghua University’s law school, Wang came to Hong Kong to research law in the 1990s. He was appointed to his position at the Liaison Office – Beijing’s government organ in the city – last year.

The office is perceived to have interfered in the city’s political affairs, including pressuring electors to cast votes for chief executive-elect Carrie Lam in March’s small-circle election.

Also at the forum on Saturday, incumbent leader Leung Chun-ying said the assurance that Hong Kong would not change for 50 years referred to the city’s capitalist system – not its sovereignty, which permanently belonged to China.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.