A representative from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong has attempted to block pro-independence activist Andy Chan from speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC). The FCC’s acting president confirmed the incident.

The Club is set to host 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.”

Sources familiar with the matter told HKFP that the FCC had been “urged to reconsider its decision” to host Andy Chan, whose party is facing a government ban. A representative from the Office of the Commissioner in Hong Kong went to the FCC to deliver the message. But the Club would not change its plans.

FCC Andy Chan
Photo: Screenshot.

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.”

Mallet added that the club welcomed different political views and opinions: “Sometimes the views of our speakers are abhorrent to the Chinese government, sometimes they are abhorrent to the opponents of the Chinese government… Our views are not represented by our speakers. We do want to hear from speakers of all kinds, whether they are right wing or left wing, or extremist or not. We will continue to do that.”

See also: Explainer: How Hong Kong is seeking to ban a pro-independence party using existing national security laws

The event introduction said that Chan will talk about his vision for a future Hong Kong nation: “The talk will cover a brief history of the Party, and touch on what Mr. Chan feels it means to be at the helm of a movement trying to construct a national identity for Hong Kong, and his reaction to the strong pushback from the government faced by his party.”

Foreign Correspondents' Club Hong Kong
Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Smuconlaw.

Pro-establishment speakers

Mallet told HKFP that China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had helped facilitate FCC speakers from the pro-establishment side, or those visiting from China.

He said that, before the Club hosted talks by pro-democracy professors Benny Tai and Kenneth Chan in June, they had tried to invite pro-Beijing speakers: “However, none of them wanted to come, none of them wanted to speak.”

“[I]t is true that it has been difficult to get pro-establishment or pro-Beijing [speakers] to come and speak. But we still welcome them as we welcome their opponents.”

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See Also: ‘They are treating Hong Kong like parts of China’: Pro-independence activist Andy Chan condemns move to censor talk

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.

On July 17, Chan was given 21 days to respond to a 900-page dossier, which contained 700 pages of his speeches and events collected by police over two years. Chan requested an extension until October since it was “unfair” for him to respond in such a short time.

The Security Bureau this week extended the deadline to 49 days – the party must now respond by September 4. However, the Bureau did not respond to Chan’s other request for access to surveillance records relating to him.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.