Pro-independence activist Andy Chan has said that the Chinese foreign ministry’s attempt to block his talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club proves that Hong Kong’s attempt to ban his party was a “political incident” going beyond the local government.
The Club is set to host Chan, the convener of the Hong Kong National Party, at a lunch talk on August 14. Announced on July 30, the talk is entitled “Hong Kong Nationalism: A Politically Incorrect Guide to Hong Kong under Chinese Rule.” The party is facing a ban, with the authorities requesting that Chan respond to a 900-page dossier by September 4.
A representative from China’s Office of the Commissioner in Hong Kong went to the FCC, urging it to reconsider its decision to host Chan.
“From the top down, it was planned by the Chinese government, the script has been written,” Chan told HKFP.
“This bold exertion of pressure on the FCC is a clear suppression of freedom of speech and freedom to conduct interviews. They are treating Hong Kong like parts of China, where news can be blocked.”
Not content with just denying HKers the right to free speech, the Chinese government has pressured foreign press to censor themselves, trying to block our party's club lunch talk at the @fcchk on 14th August. The FCC will be livestreaming the talk on Facebook.
— HK National Party (@hknationalparty) August 3, 2018
In a statement, the Office of the Commissioner said pro-independence forces have seriously contravened the Chinese Constitution, the Basic Law, and Hong Kong laws, and have damaged the national security and territorial sovereignty of the country.
“We firmly support the HKSAR government to deal with the issue in accordance with the Basic Law and laws of the HKSAR. We firmly oppose any attempt by external forces to provide a platform for ‘Hong Kong Independence’ advocates to spread their falsities,” it said.
Journalism and free expression NGOs have criticised the move.
“Such a move can result in self-censorship by groups to avoid sensitive topics and speakers, as highlighted in our speech freedom annual report. We support the FCC adhering to their principles,” the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association’s Shirley Yam told HKFP.
Cédric Alviani, director of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia, told HKFP that it denounced the attempt to intimidate the FCC, “a club that represents the very spirit of press freedom in Hong Kong.”
“We urge Beijing to respect freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which are explicitly written in the Basic Law signed by China before the Handover,” Alviani added.
The Club’s Acting President Victor Mallet confirmed that the Office made a representation to the FCC: “Our position is that we are a club that is a very strong defender of freedom of the press, and freedom of speech.”
Last month, the police told the government that there was a sufficiently strong case in the interests of “national security, public safety, public order, protection of freedom and rights of others” for the security secretary to ban the party, citing the Section 8(1)(a) of the Societies Ordinance for the first time after the Handover.