A speech by a senior member of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, during his recent visit to Hong Kong has become a rallying cry for the territory’s pro-Beijing camp to agitate for “national security” legislation.

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NPC official Li Fei. Photo: NPC

Li Fei, chairman of the NPC committee on Hong Kong’s Basic Law, its ‘mini-constitution,’ gave a stern warning on November 16 that stalled enactment of that document’s Article 23, which deals with treason, secession, sedition and subversion against Beijing, must be remedied in due course, as the “void” in Hong Kong has been undermining China’s security.

Following his intervention, Wen Wei Po, a Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing newspaper, has come up with fresh accusations that the city’s independence-leaning parties – including Hong Kong Indigenous and the Hong Kong National Party – are conspiring to join hands not only with likeminded separatists in Taiwan but also militarists in Japan to form an “anti-Communism, anti-China” league.

The paper said a bunch of right-wing Japanese politicians and academics had flown to Hong Kong in October and met with members of opposition groups, including several radical groups bent on seeking independence for Hong Kong, which is currently a “special administrative region” of China following the 1997 transfer of sovereignty from Britain.

It is claimed that two Taiwanese activists affiliated with the island’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party worked as middlemen in arranging the meeting.

According to Wen Wei Po, Sohei Kamiya (神谷宗幣), who once served in the Japan Self-Defense Forces and is now a lawmaker in Osaka Prefecture, proposed at the meeting to combine anti-Beijing groups in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong in a closely-knit alliance.

The alliance, the paper said, is to be launched in Japan in March 2018, with five Hong Kong representatives standing side by side with allies from elsewhere in opposition to Beijing’s bullying of Hong Kong as well as its hegemonic behavior in the region. The paper gave scant evidence in its report to support these claims.

The newspaper used its report as as grounds to prod the Hong Kong government to hasten the process of tabling an Article 23 bill. The authorities maintain that the legislation must be enacted at an appropriate time and according to a clear consensus.

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A colonial Hong Kong flag is seen during a public rally. Photo: AFP

The Hong Kong government scrapped a national security bill in 2003 after half a million protestors took to the streets, fearing encroachment on their freedoms and human tights.

Wen Wei Po’s “exposé” has been pounced on by mainland media, who have run sensational headlines such as “Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan conspiring to split China.”

Earlier this year, Wen Wei Po caused a commotion after it attacked groups commemorating the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Battle of Hong Kong – one of the first battles in the Pacific during World War II. The newspaper accused them of agitating for independence from Hong Kong and “forming an army to split Hong Kong from China under the cloak of war commemoration.”

The paper called on central and local authorities to take resolute measures to stop and criminalize these groups and prevent more people from joining them.

Commentaries based on the Wen Wei Po report have appeared on major mainland news portals including NetEase, Sina and Sohu, with mainland netizens reposting the articles and adding stridently patriotic remarks.