Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying has said that Hong Kong’s development is dependent on its relations with Beijing and young people Hongkongers misunderstand matters of national identity.

Speaking at a forum entitled The country and Hong Kong on Monday, he said young people should have a correct idea about the concept of “country,” as the largest collective group in human society. Giving an example, he said the largest-scale sports competitions are between countries, and countries race each other in terms of economics or national defence.

“There is an act that is illegal anywhere anytime – which is murder, and it will receive the harshest punishment. But there is an exception… it is not illegal to kill someone in the name of the country,” he said. “By this, we can understand the nature of the struggle between countries.”

Leung Chun-ying
Leung Chun-ying.

“Many acts that are not acceptable or illegal in human society become acceptable and legal in the name of the country,” he said. “As a highly international city, as a part of the country, we must understand the relationship between countries, especially the relationship between our country and other major countries today.”

“If there is only one country in this world – China – the relationship between Hong Kong and the country will become less complicated.”

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that China has “overall jurisdiction” over Hong Kong. Leung said the issue was already clearly explained in 1985, when the drafting of the Basic Law began.

“All power comes from the central government. It is not the case that Hong Kong gives some of its powers to the central government and keeps certain powers,” he said.

chinese china flag
Chinese flag. File photo: Caleb & Tara VinCross, via Flickr.

He said Hong Kong’s development depends on the correct handling of its relationship with Beijing: “We must read the Basic Law thoroughly, implement the Basic Law correctly, fully.”

Leung also said Hong Kong has to handle the issue of people disrespecting national symbols, which made mainland officials and residents sad and created a bad image for Hong Kong.

“When the national anthem was played at graduation ceremonies, some people raised umbrellas, turned their backs – no one dealt with these students, no one dealt with these principals,” he said.

He said it was not issue of freedom of speech: “This is absolute nonsense.”

Francis Lui

Another speaker, Hang Lung Properties chair Ronnie Chan, said Hong Kong people were of the group with the least idea of their country in the world.

He blamed the colonial government for creating generations of people without any concept of the country, because the British did not want Hongkongers to move to the UK, or know China.

“You cannot blame the young people now – they are the victims. Before 1997, the British government did not allow them to have any concept of the country – and they should have the concept after 1997, but it is a huge project that cannot be done in one day,” he said.

Chan is also the chairman of the Asia Society board of trustees.

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.