US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that the US was “concerned” by the Hong Kong government’s decision to ban the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP).

Pompeo said freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association must be vigorously protected in Hong Kong.

HKNP was banned on Monday on the grounds of “national security, public safety, public order, protection of freedom and the rights of others.” A first since the Handover, the prohibition has been criticised by rights groups as restricting freedoms in the city.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: US Gov.

“The U.S. supports the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. These are core values we share with Hong Kong, and that must be vigorously protected,” Pompeo, who was in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly, said in a statement.

The statement came after a similar comment from the US Consulate General in Hong Kong, which said the ban was “inconsistent” with the shared values of the US and Hong Kong.

According to the Societies Ordinance, “national security” means the safeguarding of the territorial integrity and independence of the People’s Republic of China. It means that any pro-independence claims could be seen as harming national security, following the precedent of HKNP.

Andy Chan Hong Kong National Party
Andy Chan (right) appearing on an online radio programme on September 24 night after the ban of the Hong Kong National Party. Photo: Screenshot.

Hong Kong security chief John Lee admitted that HKNP had yet to resort to violence, and the group had denied it would take violent actions. But he repeatedly pointed to the group’s previous claims that it would use all methods including violence, and said the government must deal with the threat to public safety and public order.

On the grounds of “protection of freedom and the rights of others,” Lee said HKNP spread “hatred and discrimination” against mainlanders in Hong Kong.

Following the ban, several local media outlets cited unidentified sources as saying that the police filed a request to Facebook to remove HKNP’s page.

Hong Kong National Party
Hong Kong National Party Facebook page. Photo: Screenshot.

The page, with 29,000 likes, was still accessible on Wednesday at noon, but nothing has been posted since September 4. Facebook declined to comment when reached by HKFP.

Now that the party is deemed “unlawful,” anyone who acts as an executive of HKNP, attends meetings, gives money or aid could be liable on conviction to a fine and a jail sentence of two to three years.

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.