Chief Executive Carrie Lam has criticised “rude, insulting, threatening” words used in the Hong Kong independence debate, without directly naming pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho.

At an anti-independence rally on Sunday, rural leader Tsang Shu-wo said that pro-independence activists should be “killed,” and Ho shouted “without mercy” in response. Ho later also said: “If those who are pro-independence lead to the subversion of the fate of the country… why shouldn’t these people be killed?

Lam said it was unfortunate that the issue of Hong Kong independence slogans posted around university campuses had spread into the public sphere.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“It sparked words and deeds that we as a civilised society would not want to see,” she said. “Those who made such words and deeds, regardless of their [political] stance, I would not agree to them.”

“Hong Kong is a civilised society, we have moral bottom line in a civilised society. Any rude, insulting, threatening speeches cannot be accepted. I urge society to calm down, approve what is right and condemn what is wrong – do not push Hong Kong to harm the country’s sovereign safety, challenge the power of the central government, the authority of the Hong Kong Basic Law, destroy the peacefulness of society, and bring us to boundary of a civilised society.”

Ho defended his words on social media on Tuesday, claiming that “kill” has multiple meanings and may not be advocating the actual murdering of someone.

Junius Ho
Junius Ho. Photo: Facebook/Junius Ho.

Asked about Ho’s speeches, Lam said whether any speech is illegal should be handled by the law enforcement agencies and the Department of Justice.

“On the speeches our society heard recently – using the standards I just mentioned, it is obvious to see whether a civilised society should accept such speech,” she said.

Activist Ronald Leung reported Ho’s words to the police accusing him of inciting violence and causing disorder in a public place. But he said the duty officer told him Ho may be speaking the words without meaning them, and could not open a case.

22 pro-democracy lawmakers on Monday afternoon issued a joint statement condemning Ho.

Hong Kong independence
“Hong Kong independence” slogan at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. File

Lam also said the issue of Hong Kong independence slogans in universities has dragged on for two weeks and she was concerned about the situation.

“This is not about freedom of expression or academic discussion. We saw organised, or even systematic raising of Hong Kong independence slogans in university campuses. This is more than the so-called ‘we should be able to talk about it’ claim,” Lam said.

“This is clearly challenging ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ violating the Basic Law, destroying the relationship between the central and Hong Kong government, this is not beneficial to Hong Kong’s development.”

She said she agreed with a statement from the heads of ten universities, saying that it was the responsibility of the vice-chancellors to remind students of potential dangers and to remove the slogans.

“But as of now I don’t think the government has to intervene in the management of university campuses,” she said. “I believe university management will not ignore this and let the unhealthy trend spread.”

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.