The deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said on Wednesday that there will be “different ways” of dealing with advocacy of Hong Kong independence under Basic Law Article 23.

Huang Liuquan said after a Guangzhou forum on Wednesday that the central government had zero tolerance for Hong Kong independence, and that its position had been consistent and clear.

“For speech and actions [related to] Hong Kong independence, they have to be categorised into different scenarios for regulation,” Huang said. “I believe that the Hong Kong government will deal with this when they legislate Article 23.”

Huang Liuquan
Huang Liuquan. File Photo: GovHK.

Huang did not specify what scenarios will fall under regulation.

This was the second time in recent months where speech promoting Hong Kong independence was described as illegal by mainland Chinese officials, following Zhang Xiaoming’s condemnation of Andy Chan’s speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club last month.

“Hong Kong independence must be dealt with in accordance with law, with Hong Kong’s Basic Law. Advocacy of Hong Kong independence is definitely a violation of the Basic Law,” Huang added.

Huang pointed to Article 23 of the Basic Law and noted that it covered seven prohibited items.

andy chan ho tin fcc
Andy Chan. Photo: Pool/SCMP.

Article 23 prohibits treason, secession, sedition, subversion of the central government, theft of state secrets, a foreign political organisation operating in Hong Kong, and local groups establishing ties with foreign political organisations. The article also states that Hong Kong should enact national security laws on its own.

‘Stricter’ Article 23

Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said Huang’s comments meant that the central government was dissatisfied with Hong Kong’s existing laws.

Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Lau said that future proposals of Article 23 legislation will be “stricter,” and might target speech instead of just violent behaviour and large-scale political actions.

“The central government is already restraining its hand, there are a lot of other things it could do,” he said.

Lau Siu-kai
Lau Siu-kai. File Photo: CUHK.

Independence advocate Andy Chan’s controversial speech last month also made Hong Kong people more aware of the necessity of legislation, and the current political climate is more favourable than that in 2003, Lau added.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung said the Hong Kong government should take the first step in proposing the legislation of Article 23, since there will never be total agreement in society on the issue.

“The government should have a clear policy to… show determination that there is no room for people to advocate independence,” Leung said.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.