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Friday, March 25, 2016, 00:35

‘HK independence’ is simply a fantasy

By Lawrence Ma

Some radical youths floated their “Hong Kong independence” ideas in the latest edition of the University of Hong Kong student magazine Undergrad. Their notions — that the United Nations (UN) will recognize Hong Kong as an independent “country”; that Hong Kong will form its own government through a democratic process; and that Hong Kong people will formulate their own constitution — are nothing but unrealistic fantasy. Clearly, those ideas were conceived by some dreamers without the benefit of legal advice.

‘HK independence’ is simply a fantasy Admission to membership of the United Nations requires approval by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. The Security Council is comprised of 15 nations, of which five are permanent members. The five permanent members — China, France, the Russian Federation, the US and the UK — have a special voting power known as the “right to veto”. If any one of the five permanent members casts a negative vote in the Security Council, the resolution will not be approved. For sure, China will never vote for any resolution that seeks statehood for “Hong Kong”. This means that no recommendation will be made by the Security Council to the UN General Assembly at all to recognize the city as an independent nation.

Even if Hong Kong can form its “own” government, supported by its “own” constitution, it can in no way defend it. Singapore appropriated $9.5 billion for its defense in 2015. Assuming Hong Kong resembles Singapore in some ways, each Hong Kong resident would have to shoulder an extra tax burden of about HK$10,000 per year.

Furthermore, even if Hong Kong can buy enough fighter aircraft and battleships, it cannot buy its soldiers, who must be recruited and trained locally. Are Hong Kong university students all willing to be conscripted, trained and ready to risk their lives to defend a “Hong Kong state” against the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)? On the mainland, there are around 2.3 million active personnel in the armed forces, whereas, according to official figures, there were only 87,600 university students in Hong Kong in the 2014-15 academic year. Do your math — that is 1:26 — and you will now realize it is an unwinnable battle. The PLA is legally authorized by the Constitution to defend the nation; its personnel are professionally trained — and duty bound — to fight off any secessionist campaign. In simple words, they can easily crack down on any illegal government in China at anytime.

Will the UN intervene if the PLA fights with Hong Kong’s student soldiers? No. The jus cogens rule — the prohibition of the use of force — in international law does not apply to violence emanating from an internal insurrection in an attempt to secede territory from a state. There is no obligation for existing states to recognize a new state. Thus, the UN will not intervene to help Hong Kong achieve independence.

The author is a barrister and Chairman of China-Australia Legal Exchange Foundation.
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