Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has warned that any form of separation must be suppressed before it takes root.
“Some people in Hong Kong have suggested different degrees of self-determination, separatism and even independence. We must nip them in the bud and stay vigilant. We must stay vigilant,” Leung said at a regular media session on Tuesday.
The remarks came after incoming leader Carrie Lam said she had reservations about the claim that Hong Kong independence has become a “trend of thought.”
When asked to respond to Lam’s comment, Leung said he had not read the news in detail, but urged society to stay alert about any expression suggestive of “gradual separatism.”
“When it comes to national sovereignty issues, we must take a clear-cut stance that Hong Kong is part of the country, that China exercises sovereignty over Hong Kong,” he said.
The chief executive said the government should take note of the Taiwan experience: “Just like Taiwan independence, it had a prelude and then changes of key. Advocates of Taiwan independence also did not propose independence on day one.”
He said the “prelude” included talks of “One Country, Two Governments” and other variants of independence in Taiwan during the 1990s.
Hong Kong-Taiwan links
Self-determination advocates in Hong Kong are branded by the pro-Beijing camp as pro-independence or separatist.
On Monday, Hong Kong politicians such as Nathan Law, Eddie Chu and Joshua Wong attended a press conference in Taipei to announce a cross-party platform promoting Hong Kong’s democratic development.
The platform – called the Taiwan Congressional Hong Kong Caucus – was set up by Huang Kuo-chang of the independence-leaning New Power Party, and aims to foster ties between legislators in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The move attracted heavy criticism from pro-China newspapers. State-funded outlet The Paper ran the story with the headline: “Hong Kong independence [camp] colludes with Taiwan independence [camp] in Taiwan today, arrogantly announcing the establishment of a new group.”
Beijing mouthpiece Ta Kung Pao accused the two “pro-independence forces” of attempting to stir chaos in Hong Kong and Taiwan in order to achieve the “evil goal” of splitting the country.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp has in the past visited Taiwan to discuss democratic development. During their visit in January, Joshua Wong and Nathan Law were attacked by pro-China groups at the airports in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.