The vice chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee Maria Tam explained on Friday why she has always had a problem with the protest slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution Of Our Times" and why she backs the government's claim that the words now carry secessionist or subversive intent.
"When you talk about liberation, in the Chinese meaning in our historical events, it’s when you have one piece of land, that place belongs to me but somebody took it but now I’m going to retrieve it, that’s the meaning of liberation," Tam told RTHK.
She dismissed suggestions that the authorities are trying to spread "white terror" by declaring the slogan to be illegal.
But while she said the government's announcement serves as a good reminder to people not to commit acts of secession or subversion, chanting this particular slogan on its own would not necessarily constitute a crime under the new national security law.
More investigation would be needed to look into the intentions and actions of anyone caught chanting it, for example whether they had organised others to chant the slogan and whether there was any element of violence involved, she said.
Speaking to reporters after appearing on a radio show, Tam said that Hong Kong people's right to protest, and freedom of speech, assembly and publication are still protected under the Basic Law.
"You can still go to protests, you can still have freedom of expression, but just don’t try to subvert the government or have secession of the country," she said.
Speaking on the same programme, Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok accused the government of limiting people's freedom of speech, and said he is sad to see Hong Kong losing its freedoms to this extent.
Kwok said the government's announcement on the slogan is effectively launching "literary persecution" and it is ridiculous that it's now up to officials to decide a slogan's meaning when different people can have their own interpretations.