UPDATED at 07:40 EST on 2016-09-07
China on Monday evening slammed the results of a key election this weekend in Hong Kong that saw pro-democracy student activists seated in the former British colony’s legislature, warning it will not tolerate talk by lawmakers of separating the semi-autonomous city from Beijing’s control.
“We firmly oppose any activity relating to Hong Kong independence in any form, inside or outside the Legislative Council,” a representative of China’s office dealing with Hong Kong affairs said, according to an AP report on Tuesday.
Future moves supporting Hong Kong’s independence would violate China’s constitution and should be quickly punished by Hong Kong authorities “under the law,” the spokesman said.
China’s state-owned China Daily meanwhile warned in its Hong Kong edition against the emergence of "separatist ideas" in Hong Kong’s legislature.
Chinese actions in Hong Kong since its 1997 return from Britain under a “one country, two systems” agreement have raised concerns about what citizens there see as Beijing’s frequent meddling in the city’s affairs.
Sunday’s election now sees Nathan Law, 23, a former leader of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, elected to the Legislative Council (LegCo) along with three young politicians from “localist” groups who want greater autonomy for Hong Kong.
This will ensure that pro-democracy parties, who now occupy 30 seats overall in the 70-seat council, will retain a crucial veto, as any changes to Hong Kong’s political system must win the support of two-thirds of council members to pass.
Some candidates barred
Authorities in Hong Kong had earlier barred several candidates from taking part in this year’s LegCo election, citing the candidates’ openly stated support for Hong Kong’s independence.
Speaking to RFA’s Cantonese Service, newly elected lawmaker Baggio Leung, founder of the localist group Youngspiration, promised to uphold Hong Kong’s Basic Law according to “principles, but with no bottom line.”
“We will solve our problems, especially in issues involving bad laws, in a principled way, but there should be no ‘bottom line’ limiting us in our methods,” Leung said.
Sunday’s election results now foreshadow a “more challenging” relationship between Hong Kong’s legislature and the city’s widely unpopular chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, City University of Hong Kong lecturer James Sung Lap-kung told RFA.
“The pan-democrats have successfully blocked some government bills, and now more localists will join them and demand that the chief executive step down,” Sung said.
“This will be difficult for the government,” he added.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Cantonese and Mandarin Service. Written in English by Richard Finney and Brooks Boliek.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect number of seats held by pro-democracy parties in Hong Kong's legislature.