HK could lose its autonomy if opposition lawmakers don’t stop ‘fooling around’, says prominent loyalist

16-Apr-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Opposition lawmakers are in danger of dragging Hong Kong “to the grave” if they continue to defy Beijing, a prominent pro-establishment legislator has said.

Priscilla Leung Mei-fun issued the stark warning on Wednesday, and added that any more “fooling around” could bring about an end to the “one country, two systems” principle under which Hong Kong is governed.

Leung, who is also a member of the Basic Law Committee, made her comments after Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) and its liaison office in the city accused opposition lawmakers of paralysing the legislature, betraying their oaths of office, and possibly committing criminal misconduct.

The offices said pan-democrats had “maliciously delayed” the election of a chair in the Legislative Council’s House Committee, where bills go for scrutiny before final votes, thereby creating a legislative backlog.

The committee sets the agenda for weekly council meetings, deciding the dates when certain bills are to be put forward for a final vote.

Speaking on a radio programme, Leung said Beijing would not allow Hong Kong “paralyse itself”.

“It is a sign, or a reminder that [lawmakers] should not continue fooling around,” Leung said, noting some opposition lawmakers had vowed to vote against the government’s budget.

“Apart from dragging Hong Kong to the grave with them, there will be no more one country, two systems,” Leung said, claiming the governing principle was a result of the city’s “good performance”.

Under the principle, Beijing gives Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, except in areas such as defence and diplomacy.

Leung also argued that the two offices were excluded from Article 22 of the Basic Law, which says no department of the central government may interfere in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.

This is despite her saying the HKMAO represented the central government on Hong Kong issues on the same programme.

“If it was the Guangdong province, or the Shenzhen municipal government [interfering], that’s not right,” Leung said. “It doesn’t mean [the liaison office] has no freedom of speech in Hong Kong.”

Leung also said an option to resolve the deadlock may be for pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king to withdraw from the election to decide the committee’s next chair.

As the previous vice-chair, Dennis Kwok had been presiding over House Committee meetings for the election. Kwok has come in for particularly strong criticism for his role in the backlog.

Should Lee withdraw from the race, she would replace Kwok. Lee is also the only pro-government candidate on the list of 23 lawmakers in the race.

“If this was to be done, it should have been done earlier,” Leung said. “Now it is only one option, we also need to deal with Kwok’s handling of meeting rules.”

Democratic Party chair Wu Chi-wai said Lee’s withdrawal would be the “simplest solution” to the House Committee deadlock.

Wu believed the election should continue, meaning a pan-democrat would become chair.

But he conceded pro-government lawmakers could try to prevent that scenario by forcing the nomination process to restart.

“If they want to do it forcefully, what is impossible?” Wu said.

Wu also said the attacks from Beijing officials was an attempt to boost the pro-government camp’s campaign in the upcoming Legco polls in September.

“The central government’s comments will do nothing to regain the hearts of the people,” Wu said.

According to a poll by Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute of more than 1,000 Hongkogners, only 17 per cent said they were satisfied with the government’s performance, while 68 per cent said they were not.

On the claims Legco had been paralysed, Wu said the government had not been prevented from passing new laws amid the coronavirus outbreak to limit public gatherings, nor was it blocked from getting funding for its relief packages.


Category: Hong Kong

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