Pro-Beijing loyalist Maria Tam said on Monday that a speech by pro-independence advocate Andy Chan last week did not constitute incitement.

Tam, vice-chairperson of the NPCSC Basic Law committee, told an RTHK programme that it was more sensible to use the Societies Ordinance to deal with Chan’s Hong Kong National Party (HKNP). Such an approach would be better than using laws governing sedition and national security, including the as yet-unlegislated Article 23 of the Basic Law.

Maria Tam. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“I think we should apply the Societies Ordinance first, and leave the other ordinances for now,” she said.

The HKNP is facing a potential ban by the security secretary and has until early September to make their case. Last Tuesday, Chan gave a sold-out speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, drawing a barrage of criticism from pro-Beijing politicians and the Hong Kong government.

Zhang Xiaoming, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said on Thursday the event exposed “inadequacies” in Hong Kong’s ability to protect national security.

“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.

Zhang Xiaoming. File photo:

However, Tam’s position appeared to differ from Zhang’s on Monday, as she said there was not enough evidence to prosecute Chan under local criminal law.

“If we’re talking about Section 9 [of the Crimes Ordinance], we need to prove that the person incited violence,” Tam said. “This is a matter of evidence, and it depends on people’s reactions. We have not reached that stage yet.”

“[Zhang’s] words were partly based on the factual situation, but also partly served as a warning,” she added.

Chan’s letter to Trump

Tam also criticised Chan for his letter to US President Donald Trump, which asked Washington to suspend its special treatment of Hong Kong.

鑑於近日以來香港自由迅速惡化,我黨現再發公開信予美國總統杜林普,促請總統先生審視《美國—香港政策法》,並撤銷香港及中國的世貿成員身份。In light of the rapid deterioration of freedoms in…

Posted by 香港民族黨 Hong Kong National Party on Friday, 17 August 2018

“These suggestions severely damage Hong Kong’s interests… We should fight for democracy and an open electoral system, but there is no need to rely on foreign forces,” Tam said.

When asked about the legislation of Article 23 – a prospect earlier hinted at by Zhang – Tam said that there had been gradual developments, including measures intended for closer integration in the Greater Bay Area.

“The lack of Article 23 legislation is a loophole in Hong Kong’s legal system, but [Chan’s speech] was a good opportunity for Hong Kong people to learn,” she said.

Andy Chan. Photo: Pool/SCMP.

“The roadmap for [Article 23] legislation will slowly emerge, but the timing will depend on the chief executive,” she added.

Speaking at a live Q&A session last Friday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that she had to be “cautious” when dealing with Article 23, and will only start the process when the time was right.

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.