Pro-establishment lawmakers queued up on Thursday to condemn legal scholar Benny Tai for saying at a forum in Taiwan earlier this year that Hong Kong could consider independence should China ever become a democratic country.
Pan-democrats opposed holding the debate, called for by the DAB's Gary Chan, saying it would harm freedom of speech and academic freedom. But Chan said Legco had a duty to set the record straight.
"Even though the government has already made a statement, we should make a very clear message to Hong Kong citizens that the Legislative Council supports One Country, Two Systems, and we oppose any separation from China," he said.
"Benny Tai is not a normal citizen. He is a professor and he is a political activist in Hong Kong, so he is not just talking, he will make his wish into actions," Chan added.
Christopher Cheung, who represents the financial services sector, said Tai was stirring up political trouble and advocating independence in the name of academic pursuit.
New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip, meanwhile, said Tai’s remarks were dangerous. She said they had nothing to do with academic freedom and the event where he was speaking was not an academic forum.
Social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun read out a statement by Tai.
"I do think I am only a scapegoat for an ulterior agenda. I think that what they are doing to me is something that’s likened to the Cultural Revolution, just to pave the way for Article 23 [national security laws]. This is a motion about me but I am not given an opportunity to make a representation. This is a violation of procedural justice," Shiu quoted Tai as saying.
Following the debate, Mainland and Constitutional Affairs Secretary Patrick Nip stressed that advocating independence challenges the country's bottom line on sovereignty and national integrity, and there is no room for discussing the idea.
Nip said the government cherishes freedom of speech, but people can't use this as a pretext to call for Hong Kong independence.
Last updated: 2018-05-24 HKT 13:31
Pro-govt lawmakers blast Benny Tai in Legco debate
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