China's leaders could re-think Hong Kong's autonomy if tensions in the Asian financial hub reached a level that threatened national security, one of the city's leading pro-Beijing figures has warned.
Jasper Tsang, president of Hong Kong's Legislative Council, told the South China Morning Post that failure to strike a deal over the leadership election in 2017 would deal a blow to confidence in the "one country, two systems" formula under which the city was returned to China in 1997. "The most worrying development in the past few weeks is about Beijing and Hongkongers falling into a vicious cycle that is not conducive on electoral reform," Tsang was quoted as saying in an interview with the Post published on Tuesday. "We Hongkongers must ask ourselves whether Hong Kong's contribution to our country outweighs the trouble we cause," If the former British colony could not ease the Beijing leadership's fears over threats to national security, he said China could "toughen its stance".
The comments from Tsang, a veteran pro-Beijing figure widely viewed as a moderate, come as the city braces for a hot political summer amid rising tensions over electoral reforms and fears over growing interference from Beijing.
A controversial "White Paper" produced by China's State Council, or cabinet, last month outlined the limits on Hong Kong's freedoms and stressed Beijing's ultimate authority over the autonomy granted the city.
Hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters marched in Hong Kong last week while the so-called Occupy Central movement is threatening a campaign of civil disobedience to paralyse Hong Kong's Central financial district unless Beijing lives up to earlier promises of allowing meaningful democracy in 2017.
Pro-democracy campaigners want to ensure the public can nominate candidates, but Beijing officials insist that a special committee must decide who can stand, pointing to provisions in the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution.
The government has yet to announce final proposals for the poll, with democrats fearing they will effectively find themselves unable to stand.
As tensions rise, HSBC cut its rating for Hong Kong equities to underweight from neutral on Monday, saying a campaign for greater democracy in the Asian financial centre could sour relations with China and hurt the city's economy.
On Sunday, the Hong Kong Journalists' Association said in an annual report that press freedom in Hong Kong has entered its worst period in decades and it would set up a group to investigate complaints of media self-censorship.