Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying has defended calls for Hongkongers to embrace a new “Bay Area people” identity and has accused a critic of advocating Hong Kong independence.
“The transport network of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area is becoming more and more developed, making the ‘one-hour living circle’ possible. What is wrong with the concept of ‘ Bay Area people’?” Leung, now vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said in a social media post on Thursday.
The remarks came after Jonathan Choi Koon-shum, chair of the Hong Kong-based Chinese General Chamber of Commerce and a member of China’s Political Consultative Conference, said in a media interview that Hong Kong people should intensify integration into China.
“In the future, we will no longer be Hong Kong people; we will become Bay area people. Therefore, we should focus on integration [with China] rather than the interests of Hong Kong,” Choi told the Hong Kong Economic Times on Monday.
Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area refers to areas along the southern coast of Guangdong. Choi came under fire as critics considered his comment a denial of the Hongkonger identity.
One of the critics, commentator Lo Fung, accused Choi of being a sell-out and betraying Hong Kong out of self-interest.
“People [like Choi] want to undermine Hong Kong’s status and put it on an equal footing with Chinese cities like Dongguan, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. They try to weaken or even eradicate Hong Kong’s unique international positioning and character,” Lo said in an Apple Daily op-ed on Thursday.
Leung responded to Lo on the same day, accusing the commentator of “advocating Hong Kong independence to young people” by suggesting that Hongkongers’ “feelings and way of life” should be considered as separate from that of people living in the Bay area and the rest of China.
“What is wrong with Hong Kong people choosing to extend their living circle to the Greater Bay Area? How will this become a betrayal of Hong Kong?” Leung said.
During his tenure as chief executive, Leung was an avid advocate of Hong Kong’s integration with the Bay Area. He said at the legislature last June that he had put up a Bay Area map in his office to remind himself of its importance to Hong Kong’s society and economy.
It is not the first time Leung has targeted Lo. In 2016, he sent a legal letter threatening to sue Apple Daily for carrying an op-ed by Lo accusing Leung of corruption. He said the op-ed had infringed on his right to seek re-election, while denying that his legal threats violated the right to press freedom.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung also promoted the Bay Area in a blog post last Sunday, saying its economic potential is comparable to that of San Francisco Bay Area and Tokyo Bay.