The Beijing official in charge of Hong Kong affairs has said that it was “definitely illegal” for the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) to host a talk on Tuesday by pro-independence activist Andy Chan.
Zhang Xiaoming, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said the event exposed “inadequacies” in Hong Kong’s ability to protect national security. The FCC went ahead with the luncheon event despite pressure from the Chinese foreign ministry in Hong Kong earlier in August.
“This incident has reminded us that we have to reflect upon and review Hong Kong’s inadequacies in protecting national security,” Zhang told reporters in Beijing.
He said Chan’s Hong Kong National Party publicly advocated independence, recruited members and raised for funds for its activities, whilst Chan had spoken about protecting Hong Kong with arms.
“Therefore, the Hong Kong National Party and people including Andy Chan are conducting activities intending to split the country with premeditation, organisation and action,” he said.
He added that the actions not only violated the Basic Law, but Hong Kong’s criminal laws including section 9 of the Crimes Ordinance on seditious intention.
Chan’s party is facing a government ban in September under the Societies Ordinance.
Zhang also claimed the FCC committed unlawful acts by ignoring repeated advice from the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Hong Kong government.
“This is not some general unfriendly act, or general interference or provocative act. What is it? From a legal viewpoint, it is assisting incitement to split the country, or assisting in the spiting the country. To state its nature from a legal viewpoint, this is definitely illegal,” Zhang said.
When asked if the Hong Kong government should enact a national security law, Zhang said simply: “You may also consider this issue.”
Chief Executive Carrie Lam also responded to the issue in Beijing after attending a meeting of the leading group for the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
She said the Hong Kong government’s stance was not connected to the limiting of free speech or press freedom.
“Online and print media have both widely reported it – how did the SAR government suppress freedom of speech?” she said.
She said the government has a constitutional duty to protect national security, China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and it cannot tolerate secession speeches which cross the bottom line of the law.
She also said media organisations should have the responsibility not to commit any acts of incitement: “A media organisation provided a platform for other people to promote pro-independence speech, or speeches that harmed the feelings of many Chinese people and Hong Kong residents – what is the problem if the government expresses its disappointment?”
Asked if the FCC’s Central premises will be taken back by the government, Lam said the location, lease or rent of the venue were not core issues.
“Even if this event was held at a commercial hotel, our stance is the same, I would have said the same words. Thus, I don’t have to answer this question, as it is not a core issue, there is no point to shift the focus,” she said.
Lam maintained that the national security law was a constitutional duty of the government, but it depended on the social atmosphere.
“After I took office, people think Hong Kong society has become calmer, but when we see someone stir up confrontation, it again leads to division in society,” Lam said. “Under this situation, I must consider how to do a relatively controversial thing as the chief executive.”
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