When two pro-independence Hong Kong activists and lawmakers from a city of 7m people think they can trump the needs of a Chinese nation of 1.3bn, here enters Beijing to show them who is in charge.
The ‘one country, two systems‘ principle promised by Beijing in 1997 to Hong Kong people for a period of 50 years through the Basic Law, their mini-constitution, has been questioned and put under an interpretation of the Article 104. According to this article, all elected Hong Kong officials and judges need to ‘swear to uphold’ the Basic Law and ‘swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China’. The duo from the radical Youngspiration party, 30-year-old Sixtus ‘Baggio’ Leung and 25-year-old Yau Wai-ching, have repeatedly refused to say the oath properly and caused chaos in the Legislative Council (LegCo) during the oath-taking ceremony.
When it comes to any talk of separatism or independence, for China is a big deal, since it might be considered a threat to its sovereignty. Basically, you could end up with a lengthy jail term.
What they’ve done instead was using a derogatory term to describe China (the imperial Japanese pronunciation – Chee-na/ Shina), referring to the ‘Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’ as ‘Hong Kong nation’ and finally, displaying a banner declaring that ‘Hong Kong is not China‘. Enough for creating a mess and protests to begin.
Even though along the history, it wouldn’t be a premiere in interpreting the Basic Law, it is the first time China’s parliament, without the request of either the Hong Kong government or Court of Final Appeal, is dealing with the issue in a Hong Kong court.
The outcome was yet predictable. The decision to bar two elected lawmakers from taking up their seats is motivated by Beijing as ‘absolutely necessary‘ and ‘complies with the common aspiration of the entire Chinese people, including those in Hong Kong.‘
Below is a summary of how the UK media managed to cover and report the news:
- BBC News focuses on offering the audience a good understanding of the current situation by presenting a short history of Hong Kong, the political controversy and also its potential consequences;
- The Guardian has a more pessimistic approach, noticeable from the title ‘This is the beginning of the end of Hong Kong‘, which is oriented towards political correctness and freedom of expression ;
- Time emphasises how Beijing’s move might damage the people’s trust in the rule of law and the independence of the courts;
- The Independent calls the event ‘a constitutional crisis‘ and as the previous media outlets, it shows the impact that the Beijing’s decision might have on people;
- SkyNews presents the news story slightly different by adding the reaction of those who are pro-Beijing decision;
- BuzzFeed reveals people’s reactions on social media via Facebook and Twitter.
Yet, more relevant is how the Asian publications relate to this conflict:
- South China Morning Post credits the Beijing’s decision and tackles the national security legislation issues;
- Hong Kong Free Press points out the street protests using photos with people having open umbrellas in their hands (allusion to the pro-democracy political movement in 2014 where umbrella represented a symbol of resistance against the Hong Kong Police and NPCSC- the National People’s Congress Standing Committee);
- China Daily offers a wide range of articles on this topic; however, all of them are focused on the Beijing’s necessity to interpret the legislation.
It is certain that now people are split into two groups. What is this going to lead to?
More protests? Maybe. But the key point is what is going to happen to the Hong Kong young democracy activists. What about the aspirations for freedom of expression and juridical independence?
So far, mother China doesn’t let any of her ‘kids’ leave the nest.