Hong Kong’s independence-minded National Party could be facing a long-feared ban from politics, and the hints are not subtle: the police actually sent the party a letter on Tuesday giving it three weeks to justify its continued survival.
The Associated Press reports an official from the territorial security bureau wrote to 27-year-old Hong Kong National Party leader Andy Chan to inform him a decision has been made to dissolve his party as a threat to “public safety” and “public order” under a national security law last invoked against a political party in 1997. The HKNP has only been around since 2016, formed in protest of Beijing’s growing influence over semi-autonomous Hong Kong.
Chan told the Associated Press his party “has always been an enemy of China,” which goes a long way toward explaining why it has been sentenced to political execution with just three weeks to file an appeal. Chan thinks Beijing was enraged by his recent trip to Taiwan, where he spoke about human rights abuses. The mainland government and its local subsidiaries evidently decided to validate his complaints about diminishing political freedom in Hong Kong.
The New York Times noted that Chan has already been banned from running for public office as part of a general purge against candidates who support independence, the China-friendly government having been badly rattled by the surprisingly popular but ultimately doomed “Umbrella Revolution” of 2014.
“It’s a blatant decision on the part of the government to tell Hong Kong people and the rest of the world that this is the end for Hong Kong; there’s no more one country, two systems. The law is in their hands and they can do whatever they want with it,” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said of the Hong Kong National Party ban, referring to the doctrine that has partially preserved Hong Kong’s autonomy since control was returned to mainland China.
The Hong Kong National Party decided to go down swinging with a defiant Facebook post sneering at the “increasingly insecure government” for abusing the law to “pelt pebbles at the Hong Kong people and her independent movement”:
The Hong Kong National Party has long since lost faith in any so-called Rule of Law under them, our current Chinese colonial rulers, and our loyal supporters have done the same. For what is their “national security,” their “laws,” and their banning of operations but a purely political decision to silence those who dare to represent the true interests of the Hong Kong people and nation?
The Hong Kong National and Independence Movements are, in their core, both struggles to fight back and drive out the Chinese colonizers. Today we Hong Kongers stand in opposition to our enemies, these Chinese colonizers and their puppets in the current Hong Kong government, and it is this antagonism that defines our movement. The Hong Kong National Party hereby call upon all supporters and sympathisers of the Hong Kong cause to realise this, and lend your support to any cause and act that damages the interests of China.
That is not exactly the kind of statement one writes in the hope of convincing a pro-Beijing bureaucrat not to pull the plug. It might help to draw some international attention to the party’s plight, as in the case of Amnesty International, which strongly denounced the threatened ban.
“The authorities must stop using vague laws to intimidate people who hold different political views. The attempt to ban the Hong Kong National party raises alarm bells as to what the government will look to curtail next in the name of national security,” said Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, which gave control of Hong Kong to China in 1997, also “noted with concern” the threatened banning on Tuesday.
“The rights to stand for election, of free speech and of freedom of association are enshrined in the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. The UK does not support Hong Kong independence, but Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, and its rights and freedoms, are central to its way of life, and it is important they are fully respected,” the FCO said.