China warns other countries to respect HK National Party ban and stop supporting pro-independence forces

26-Sep-2018 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

China’s foreign affairs commissioner in Hong Kong has issued a stern warning to representatives from other countries to respect the government’s unprecedented ban on a separatist party and to stop supporting pro-independence forces “under the guise of freedom of speech and association”.

Instead, they should “fulfil their promise of supporting [the] ‘one country, two systems’” policy under which China governs Hong Kong, it said.

The statement on Monday night came after the Hong Kong National Party was officially outlawed on national security grounds earlier in the day.

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said the party’s willingness to use force meant its pro-independence calls could not be regarded as mere “political rhetoric”. The ban was made to “safeguard national security, public safety, public order and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”, he argued.

 (South China Morning Post)

(South China Morning Post)

Under the ban, anyone who associates with the party by serving the group, taking part in gatherings or providing financial assistance could be liable on conviction to a fine and jail sentence of up to three years.

A US consulate spokesman said the decision was inconsistent with freedom of expression and association. These were core values the United States shared with Hong Kong and must be vigorously protected, he said.

Britain’s Foreign Office expressed its concern at the ban, adding: “The UK does not support Hong Kong independence, but Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and its rights and freedoms are central to its way of life, and it is important they are fully respected.”

The European Union said the ban “limits freedom of expression and association, as well as political activity in Hong Kong, and risks having a wider negative impact”.

While some legal experts maintained the ban was targeted at the party and no one else, other observers warned it could pose a threat to the city’s freedoms, as political parties, the media and the public could become more cautious for fear of stepping on legal landmines.

The Office of the Commissioner of China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in Hong Kong said in a statement that it firmly supported the ban, which was in line with the city’s laws. It described the HKNP as an “unregistered and illegal social group” that had been plotting separatist activities since it was founded.

“[These activities are] seriously contravening China’s constitution, the Basic Law and other existing laws in Hong Kong, seriously damaging China’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, and defiantly touching the bottom line of the one country, two systems principle.”

The commissioner’s office said foreign organisations should respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the norms of international relations.

“We urge organisations of countries concerned in Hong Kong … to stop intervening in Hong Kong and China’s internal affairs under the guise of so-called ‘freedom of speech and association’, and to stop issuing wrong signals to Hong Kong independence forces,” the statement said.

On a radio programme on Tuesday morning, Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative to China’s top legislature, did not directly address questions on whether the ban would pave the way for further tightening of controls on other political groups, but warned any advocacy for Hong Kong’s separation from China would lead to a dead end.

“I would like to make an open appeal to all political parties, political groups and social groups. Advocacy for Hong Kong independence will be a road to nowhere, which is obviously contravening the Basic Law in Hong Kong and China’s constitution,” the National People’s Congress Standing Committee member said.

Pressed for his views on the implications of the ban, Tam said the Security Bureau had been “very careful” in handling the HKNP issue.

“There has been no widespread targeting of others. If the government did that, it would definitely face judicial review. Now we have the case of HKNP … If some other political groups say they don’t care and continue [to advocate for Hong Kong independence], the government will have no choice to but to take action.”

Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, who called into the radio programme, maintained it was “completely far-fetched” for the Security Bureau to cite what the HKNP did before it was banned as evidence of “actual actions threatening national and public security”.

“Before it was banned, what it did was the same as all other political parties … promoting its political beliefs, handing out leaflets and setting up street booths,” Yeung said. “If what [the HKNP] did before it was banned was considered as evidence, it’s completely far-fetched.”

Yeung said the court would be the best place to differentiate rhetoric versus actions and to judge whether some actions were sufficient to pose a threat to national security. But he added it would be a political instead of legal problem if the government disagreed with a political belief.

However, Tam said, if some political rhetoric was “appealing and inciting others” and therefore affecting national security, it was “problematic”.

Tam, a heavyweight in Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing bloc, reiterated his wish for the current administration to push through a national security law.

Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, Hong Kong is obliged to enact its own law to prohibit acts of “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” against the central government.

Previous attempts to advance the legislation in 2003 drew half a million people to the streets in protest, forcing the government to shelve the bill.



Category: Hong Kong

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