A top adviser to Beijing has said that the central government can issue instructions to the Hong Kong chief executive over the handling of the pro-independence movement.
Andy Chan, whose Hong Kong National Party is facing a government ban, spoke at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) for around an hour on Tuesday. Following his sold-out speech, the local government and the Chinese foreign ministry in Hong Kong both issued strongly-worded statements criticising the 27-year-old, and the press club for hosting him.
Lau Siu-kai, vice-chair of The Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies – a semi-official think tank – said Chan’s speech did not contain anything new as it was mainly about bout denying the validity of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.
Lau said China’s internal security situation had worsened, and the US had adopted a strategy of suppression in its trade war and on other issues: “With the emergence of Hong Kong independence forces, the Chinese government’s alertness over this issue has increased,” he said.
He added that Beijing had many methods to suppress the independence movement, although the national security law stipulated by Article 23 of the Basic Law had yet to be enacted.
“If there is a national security loophole and Hong Kong cannot plug it, it can introduce national laws in Hong Kong, legislate laws for Hong Kong… or give instructions to the chief executive to handle issues related to national security. There are many methods, but they would not be used unless they are necessary,” Lau said.
He said the row over Andy Chan’s controversial speech had heightened the pressure to enact the national security law, which was scrapped in 2003 following mass protests.
Lau also said that the FCC made a mistake in putting the Hong Kong government in a difficult spot: “Hong Kong has been treating the FCC well – can they consider Hong Kong’s welfare, safety and interests more when they handle issues?”
Meanwhile, former chief executive Leung Chun-ying continued his criticism of the FCC and Chan on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“The FCC couldn’t have picked a worse topic than Hong Kong independence to offend the Chinese people more,” he wrote on FAcebook. “Hong Kong is an open, welcoming and tolerant society. But like other societies we too have no-go zones. Secession ranks top.”
“Giving Andy Chan your platform under the freedom of speech umbrella is arrogant and adds insult to injury. We weren’t born yesterday. We know what other countries, including Western countries practise,” he added. “The Chinese people can feel offended too.”
The FCC couldn't have picked a worse topic than Hong Kong independence to offend the Chinese people more. Hong Kong is…
Leung also said it was “ironic” that, when Chan spoke at the FCC, he called Hong Kong a Chinese colony. He said, if Chan was right, there should be a Chinese press club which could rent a site without any public bidding process.
“Today, the FCC site is rented out without a public bidding process, and the FCC has yet to reveal its lease – if Hong Kong is a colony, it is probably still a foreign colony, not a Chinese colony,” Leung said.
Pro-democracy camp lawmakers have condemned the government’s criticism of the FCC, saying that it amounted to an “unprecedented suppression of press freedom in Hong Kong.”
They also condemned a petition launched by pro-Beijing camp lawmakers asking the government to terminate the FCC’s lease: “The FCC is an important bridge of communication with international media, the Club has paid a market rent for the venue, the pro-Beijing camp’s demand is unreasonable and a threat, it is laughable and put shame on Hong Kong.”
Reporters Without Borders said it decried China’s attempt to intimidate the FCC and urged Beijing to respect freedom of the press.
“It is a matter of professional responsibility for journalists to hear the views of different sides in any debate, and it is natural that the FCCHK would invite speakers representative of all non-violent political tendencies,” said Cédric Alviani, the director of RSF’s East Asia bureau.
“The Chinese authorities are clearly trying to extend their policy of intimidating foreign journalists to the territory of Hong Kong.”