In a rare show of unity, a Democrat has joined a pro-Beijing rival to warn against testing Beijing’s tolerance by calling for Hong Kong to break from China, warning the consequences should not be underestimated.

Democratic Party executive director Lam Cheuk-ting said Beijing would likely send troops to take over should the city seek to go independent. Pro-Beijing lawyer Junius Ho Kwan-yiu said Hong Kong could risk its water and food supplies from mainland China being cut if it went independent.

They were speaking at a forum on Hong Kong independence on Monday at Shue Yan University in North Point, organised by its students’ union, the second of a series to discuss the city’s future amid a rising tide of localism.

The first forum was forced to move to the Academy for Performing Arts in Wan Chai after an application to use a venue at the university was rejected. The academy had also objected to the forum but students went ahead anyway in a cubicle usually used as the student union office.

Shue Yan University allowed the latest forum after an agreement to make it a students-only event.

Lam and Ho accused advocates of independence of “being blind to political reality”, while the other two speakers – Wong Yeung-tat of militant localist group Civil Passion, and Chan Ho-tin of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party – argued that independence was the only means to protect Hong Kong’s interests as democracy movements in recent decades had failed.

Ho rejected Chan’s ideas as naive. “You need to know who is the boss [of Hong Kong],” said Ho, “Beijing won’t bargain over sovereignty.”

Lam echoed Ho’s views and said: “Taiwan has its own troops and it is geographically separated from China. But why does it not dare to declare independence? It is because they know the consequence – there will be war.”

Chan said he believed the West would help Hong Kong resist if Beijing sent troops to “invade” Hong Kong. And he did not believe food and water supplies would be cut.

“When Hong Kong was still a British colony, China continued to supply food and water to us. It is a kind of trade,” said Chan.

Wong said Hong Kong was too important a financial centre for Beijing to use military force.

The forum came amid escalating rhetoric by Beijing envoys in Hong Kong against calls for independence.

On Sunday, the deputy commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Hong Kong, Hu Jianzhong, warned that instigating hatred towards the central government and anti-state speeches and publicity should be defined as treason and sedition.

He also hit out at “a few radical groups” that he said had stirred up trouble by advocating self-determination and nullification of the Basic Law.

“Come to arrest me. Come to take me back to the mainland like Lee Po,” said a defiant Chan, referring to the Hong Kong bookseller who disappeared in December amid rumours he had been kidnapped by mainland law enforcers. Lee himself denied it and said he had gone to the mainland his “own way” to help a police investigation.

By KC NG Apr. 18, 2016 on the South China Morning Post

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