A fringe pro-independence party and a historic journalists’ club have been thrust into the forefront of the intensifying battle over free speech and the rule of law in Hong Kong, a semi- autonomous Chinese territory that has long prided itself on its civic freedoms.
A tiny and previously little-known political party with no presence in the legislature would have languished on the fringes of Hong Kong’s political sphere were it not for attempts by the city’s government to crush the group. Now, the Hong Kong National Party finds itself in the limelight, raised to an unaccustomed level of prominence in a dispute that is fast becoming a test for the city’s autonomy.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s government threatened to ban Chan’s pro-independence National Party, a move unprecedented since the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. Andy Chan talked about China's plan to limit speech.
More than 60 groups signed a petition criticizing the government's abuse of freedom of association by proposing to ban the Hong Kong National Party. Assistant Societies Officer Rebecca Lam Hiu-tung, who is also assistant police commissioner, had recommended that Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu prohibit the pro-independence party from continuing to operate.
In their recommendation to ban the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) on Tuesday, the legal grounding cited by the police was the Societies Ordinance. They 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 embattled group.
Liberal lawyers’ group voices concern over attempt to shut down party on national security grounds, when it has not resorted to violence
Progressive Lawyer Group member Jason Y. Ng talks about the free speech controversies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong 香港中文大學 - CUHK and The Education University of Hong Kong, in an op-ed for the Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (views are his own). "Activists fighting for marriage equality or access to medical marijuana should be free to wave rainbow flags or hand out leaflets explaining the health benefits of cannabis. Neither same-sex marriage nor marijuana use is legally permissible, but that’s precisely the point of free speech: to debate whether they should be."
Banners calling for Hong Kong independence reappeared in the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) on Tuesday, prompting the university authorities to issue a warning. Kevin Yam Kin-fung, founder of the Progressive Lawyers Group, said the flyers and posters had merely discussed the issues and did not insinuate or encourage others to harm the regime. Hence, no law was broken, he argued.