Pro-Beijing newspapers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao have published articles on the personal lives of independence advocates and pan-democrats, following news last week that the security secretary was considering banning the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP).
HKNP Convener Andy Chan and pro-democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin became prominent targets, with multiple articles devoted to them over the past week. Wen Wei Po ran a cover story on Chan’s alleged infidelity on Monday. Whilst Ta Kung Pao on Wednesday linked Au with the independence movement and claimed his wife was a relative of pro-democracy heavyweights.
Au told HKFP that the accusations were ridiculous: “I have always opposed Hong Kong independence, and my position will not change just because I support freedom of association.”
Chan received a letter from Hong Kong’s security chief last Tuesday stating that a ban on HKNP was under consideration, giving him 21 days to make his case. On Saturday, a rally was held protesting the secretary’s decision, during which protesters said the authorities were infringing upon freedom of association.
Pro-Beijing newspapers have since run editorials in support of the secretary’s decision alongside news articles on Chan and Au’s personal lives.
“HKNP Convenor Andy Chan has publicly called for ‘revolution’ and ‘Hong Kong independence,’ but despite his respectable appearance at public events, in reality, he is a complete philanderer,” said the Wen Wei Po cover story on Monday.
Chan told HKFP that the claims were “clearly a smear and character assassination.”
Last Saturday’s rally was organised by the Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of pro-democracy groups. Au is deputy convener of CHRF and, despite being a member of the pan-democrat camp, attended the event in solidarity with HKNP.
Wen Wei Po reported on Monday that pro-establishment politicians were calling for Au’s disqualification, saying that Au was an HKNP sympathiser.
‘On the same boat’
Ta Kung Pao published an article on Wednesday claiming that Au was “backed” by various pro-democracy heavyweights, and has shown ties to Hong Kong independence by being law professor Benny Tai’s “appointed successor.”
“Au demonstrated his affinity for independence after getting into office… On Saturday he urged people to support HKNP, and said he was ‘on the same boat’ as independence activists. It is foreseeable that, once Au takes over the opposition bloc, he will push the pan-democrats further towards extremism,” the article read.
Au said the reports were false: “Pro-Beijing newspapers have falsely accused me of supporting Hong Kong independence. They have been secretly taking photographs of my family members, and their methods are no different from that of triads.”
Ta Kung Pao published an editorial in June claiming that the annual pro-democracy July 1 march should be banned as it “violates the law.”
There were also two instances in recent years where Ta Kung Pao reporters were accused of harassing pro-democracy or pro-independence figures.