China official says Hong Kong sovereignty 'impossible'

Screenshot of an excerpt from the "Our 2047" article in HKU's Undergrad student magazine Image copyright Undergrad Magazine
Image caption The article also mentioned February's clashes in Mong Kok where police officers had fired warning shots

A senior Chinese official has said it is "impossible" for Hong Kong to become a sovereign state.

It comes days after an article in a university newspaper called for the United Nations to recognise as Hong Kong as a separate country by 2047.

Hong Kong has certain rights enshrined in its mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which came into effect in 1997 when the UK handed it over to China.

It guarantees the "one country, two systems" principle for 50 years.

Following the 2014 mass pro-democracy protests, a small but growing number of people in Hong Kong have pushed for greater independence from China, giving rise to what is known as the "localist" movement.

The latest call was made in an issue of Undergrad, the student magazine of the University of Hong Kong, published online this week.

An article titled "Our 2047" called for Hong Kong to be recognised by the United Nations as a sovereign country, as well as the establishment of a democratic government and its own constitution.

Qiao Xiaoyang, head of China's parliamentary law committee, was addressing queries from reporters on Wednesday as the annual meeting of China's parliamentary National People's Congress drew to a close.

Asked what he thought of calls for Hong Kong's independence, Mr Qiao responded saying it was "impossible" and asked: "How could Hong Kong be independent?"

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Mr Qiao, seen here in a file picture, heads the National People's Congress law committee

The article also said Hong Kong's identity and heritage needed greater protection, pointing out that the Umbrella Movement had failed to secure demands for greater freedoms.

It also criticised Hong Kong's government as a mainland "puppet", as well as opposition pan-democrat lawmakers for their "weak response" to increasing localist sentiment.

Beijing has repeatedly promised to stick to the dual mode of governance known as "one country, two systems", where Hong Kong's basic freedoms are guarded.

But it refused to give in to demands by protesters in 2014 to allow the city to have greater say in picking its leader, the chief executive, in the next election due in 2017.

In February, violence broke out in the working-class neighbourhood of Mong Kok as police tried to clear illegal hawkers who were supported by the localist movement.

Several localist protesters and leaders have been charged with rioting.

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