Convener of the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) Andy Chan said at a public forum on Sunday that he may launch a legal challenge if the government succeeds in banning his party.
Chan was speaking at RTHK’s City Forum in his first public appearance since he received the letter from the Secretary for Security last Tuesday. In the letter, the security chief said he was considering banning HKNP, giving Chan 21 days to make his case. Enclosed with the letter was a dossier on HKNP’s activities spanning over 700 pages.
“This incident will have a lasting effect, and does not just affect HKNP… for other political parties, social organisations, concern groups – they will face a similar danger,” Chan said. “I’m worried this is just the beginning.”
Chan said that the Hong Kong government is using the Societies Ordinance to play the role of Article 23, the national security article in the Basic Law which has yet to be officially legislated. He also questioned the legal basis for the ban, saying that the government’s case was based solely on speech.
“If that were true, when I said I supported the Basic Law, why wasn’t I allowed to run?” Chan said, referencing the candidate declaration he signed in a bid to join the 2016 Legislative Council election.
Chan did not say definitively what his next steps would be, stating that the police were closely monitoring him and he needed to choose his words carefully.
At the forum, reporters spotted two plainclothes police officers who watched from the sidelines for over an hour. When asked, the officers acknowledged their identity but said they were not following Chan. They said their purpose was to “observe” and “maintain public order.”
The potential ban on HKNP found a defender over the weekend in Maria Tam, the vice-chairperson of the Basic Law Committee of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.
“Beijing is absolutely clear that it has zero tolerance for Hong Kong independence,” Tam said.
She said that it was appropriate for the Hong Kong government to make its move now and to use HKNP as a “test case.” This was despite there being no clear threat of violence, she said.
“You don’t have to actually hold a gun and attack the Chinese government or Hong Kong government for it to qualify as endangering national security,” Tam said.
Last Friday, the European Union Office in Hong Kong and Macao said in a statement that it has taken note of the situation surrounding HKNP and “continues to monitor closely political developments in the Hong Kong SAR.”
The office said that it hopes the secretary’s decision on HKNP will “fully respect freedoms which are essential to Hong Kong’s success and prosperity.”