Hong Kong’s top 2 parties clash over ex-Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang’s views on proposed national security legislation

“Some people have regularly used [Article 23] to gain traffic, and even attacked scholars and politicians expressing legitimate views over Article 23,” DAB lawmaker Steven Ho Chun-yin told reporters at Legco.

“I found this absolutely unacceptable.”

Joephy Chan’s attack on veteran DAB politician Jasper Tsang has drawn fire. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Ho, who did not identify Chan by name, said Tsang’s discussion on “distinguishing the real concerns of the people from hostile attacks by opposition forces” in the op-ed article showed the veteran politician had made his constructive position clear.

“Our responsibility is to dispel doubts, not calling anyone who raises any doubts an opponent of the Article 23 legislation,” he added.

“I strongly condemn this act of gaining traffic and violating the principle of patriots governing [Hong Kong].”

Ho was speaking after Chan, 33, said on YouTube last Friday that Tsang’s comments on the sedition offence in a Chinese-language newspaper this month were “puzzling”. She also cast doubt on his choice of an “opposition-leaning” newspaper for his article.

“If it is to persuade [opposition supporters], it would be more understandable to publish it in an opposition-leaning newspaper,” she said.

“But Jasper Tsang’s article seems to be more questioning than supporting the Article 23 legislation.

“It was a bit uncomfortable to hear something like that from Mr Tsang, which didn’t seem to help people understand the Article 23 legislation.

“It wouldn’t be that odd if the same words were uttered by the Democratic Party, which otherwise doesn’t have a clear idea about the idea behind national security, but Mr Tsang must know it better, right?”

More ‘smears’ by ‘external forces’ expected over Hong Kong security law: Chris Tang

Chan’s video also associated the 76-year-old pro-establishment politician with ex-Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun and John Tsang Chun-wah, a former financial secretary who won the support of opposition electors in his 2017 bid for the city’s top job.

She hit out after Jasper Tsang earlier this month raised a series of questions about Hong Kong’s proposed home-grown national security legislation in an op-ed piece.

Tsang’s article, published in Ming Pao on February 6, questioned whether the newly revised definition of sedition was too broad and whether the list of state secrets proposed in the 110-page consultation paper was not exhaustive enough.

Ho was speaking just before Chan and other lawmakers from the FTU were about to talk to the media at Legco about an informal exchange with senior officials on the security legislation.

Chan was unrepentant and insisted she was duty-bound to defend the Article 23 legislation in support of Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung’s “rebuttal” mission.

“As a member of the Legislative Council, I also have another hat as a key opinion leader,” she said.

“We must stand up and refute any hostile smear against Article 23. This is our responsibility, and an arrangement to ensure the Article 23 legislation can be done in the best possible way.”

FTU president Stanley Ng Chau-pei said there was no need for the press to “hype” Chan’s YouTube clip as she had made her arguments very clear.

Starry Lee Wai-king, a veteran DAB lawmaker, later told the Post that Ho’s condemnation of “gaining traffic” tactics was not a party position, but refused to comment further.

Most opinions in Hong Kong consultation support Article 23 security law: John Lee

Confrontations between members of the two parties have been rare, but Tsang’s apparently sympathetic approach to the opposition camp has drawn fire from pro-Beijing hardliners.

A call by Tsang for Beijing to look into the causes behind Hong Kong’s emigration wave in a 2021 interview was slammed by Ng for “misleading the public” with “ulterior motives”.

Lau Siu-kai, a consultant to semi-official Beijing think tank the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said although many in the patriotic camp have had reservations about the former Legco president, “so far no one thinks that Jasper Tsang has abandoned the patriotic camp”.

The veteran political scientist said he did not think the clash would undermine unity within the city’s rulers.

He added a display of diverse views might even help boost the appeal of the patriotic camp, which appeared to the public to lack dissident views.

“Although Chan is indeed disrespectful towards Tsang, it cannot be said that she has no right to make the criticism,” Lau added.

“Having disputes in the camp is actually a good thing, as it will help get more people to join or support the patriotic camp.”

A one-month consultation period on the proposed legislation will end on February 28.

The planned legislation, mandated under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, would introduce five types of new offences designed to complement the Beijing-imposed 2020 national security law.

Chan’s YouTube channel, created in December 2019, has a following of about 313,000. The video that included the attack on Tsang has had more than 50,000 views.


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