Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status is being shaken. On November 7th, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s top legislation panel, decided to disqualify two radical lawmakers in the Hong Kong legislature.
At the center of the dispute are Leung Chung-hang and Yan Wai-ching, newly elected pro-independent lawmakers from the Youngspiration party. The NPC Standing Committee said that when they were sworn in, Leung and Yan displayed a banner saying “Hong Kong is not China” and said the word “China” in a derogatory way.
In response to this, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, held a press conference and stated that he must prevent people from making assertions that could lead to a split of the nation, expressing his intention to follow the wishes of the NPC Standing Committee and drown out the voices of pro-independent activists in Hong Kong.
Mounting Hong Kongers’ Frustration
After Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, China promised to allow the city to enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs, for 50 years.
Under the principle of “one country, two systems” judicial independence and free speech are protected in Hong Kong, and its citizens are allowed to freely choose members of the legislature.
However, less than 20 years after the Hong Kong’s handover to China, the Chinese government ruled that voters would only be able to choose from a list of candidates selected by Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing election committee. This means that Hong Kong is already beginning to be integrated into China. The fact that Beijing can arbitrarily block the democratically elected lawmakers from taking seats in the Hong Kong legislature means that “one country, two systems” will lose further meaning.
A number of demonstrators took to the streets of Hong Kong through the night of November 6th and into the early morning of the 7th, which shows mounting public dissatisfaction with Beijing.
Beijing Attempts to Undermine Hong Kong’s Judicial Independence
Mr. Yeung Wai Hong, a top executive of Hong Kong conservative media giant Next Digital (previously known as Next Media), sent his comments on the situation in Hong Kong to the editors of The Liberty. He said, “China’s intervention obviously violates Hong Kong’s Basic Law. Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal is supposed to interpret and apply legislation when deciding cases, but the NPC Standing Committee interpreted the law at its discretion without letting the Hong Kong judicial authorities handle the matter.”
A journalist from Hong Kong underscored the seriousness of the situation, saying that China’s interference would threaten the independence of the judiciary of Hong Kong.
The Waves of Democratization Starts From Hong Kong
In September 2014, the Umbrella Revolution, a pro-democracy political movement occurred in Hong Kong, but the protests were smashed by the Chinese government. Since then, there has been a growing call for greater democracy for the people of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s struggle for democratization will lead to further conflict with Beijing while it officially grants autonomy to Hong Kong but actually aims to absorb the city into unified rule by the Chinese Communist Party.
It is our sincere hope that rather than being completely ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, Hong Kong will be the epicenter of democratization in China.