Hong Kong bans pro-independence party in unprecedented move

Authorities in the Chinese-ruled city ban the Hong Kong National Party for posing a threat to national security.

    Fast Facts

    • The Hong Kong National Party was founded in 2016
    • It's the territory's first separatist political party
    • The party does not hold a single elected seat at any level 
    • Its leader Andy Chan, 28-year-old, describes himself as a democracy advocate
    • But most people do not support independence

    Hong Kong has banned a political party promoting independence from China, a first for the autonomous city since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

    The city's Secretary for Security John Lee announced the ban on the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) in a statement published on Monday, 10 days after the party submitted arguments against the move.

    The statement said the party has been "prohibited" from operating. Anyone who associates with the party or serves the group could be liable to a fine and a jail term of two to three years.

    Lee ordered the ban under the Societies Ordinance, a colonial-era law that requires all social groups and organisations to register with the police.

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    The law allows the government to ban groups "in the interests of national security, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others".

    In a press briefing on Monday, Lee told reporters that the two-year-old group was prepared to use "all methods" to forge independence, which ultimately posed a threat to national security.

    "The Hong Kong National Party has a very clear agenda to achieve its goal of Hong Kong being made an independent republic," Lee said at the briefing.

    The party could use force to achieve its goal and had spread "hatred and discrimination" against Chinese visitors to Hong Kong, he added.

    One country, two systems

    Lee concluded: "I cannot just treat such matters as political slogans and neglect their threats posted to public safety and order."

    Hong Kong is governed under a "one country, two systems" principle which allows the financial hub a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in China, including an independent legal system and freedom of speech and assembly.

    Speaking at Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondent Club (FCC) in August, Andy Chan, founder of the HKNP, called for independence in a speech condemned by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

    "We are a nation that is quickly being annexed and destroyed by China," Chan told a packed room in August.

    "If Hong Kong were to become truly democratic, Hong Kong's sovereignty must rest with the people of Hong Kong. China is, by its nature, an empire - a threat to all free peoples in the world."

    Chan called on the United Kingdom and the United States to help Hong Kong.

    He added he was under increased "surveillance" by groups of people he did not know, who had been following him and knocking at his family's door to take pictures of them in the lead up to his speech.

    China's foreign ministry in a statement "condemned" the correspondents' club for hosting Chan and said there is a "bottom line" for freedom of speech. It said any words or actions that attempted to split Hong Kong from China would be "punished in accordance with the law" and that the FCC was "not outside the law".

    'I will never stop' 

    The HKNP is one of a handful of groups that openly advocate independence for Hong Kong.

    Founded in 2016, it drew at least 2,500 people to what was dubbed Hong Kong's first pro-independence rally two years ago.

    Most people in the city of 7.3 million do not support independence.

    Beijing has repeatedly criticised the movement, fearful of their idea taking hold on the mainland.

    What is driving Hong Kong-China tensions?

    In the Field

    What is driving Hong Kong-China tensions?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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