A political party fighting for independence from China was banned by the Hong Kong government on Monday, the first such move since the city’s handover by Britain to China in 1997.
The Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) with a few dozen members has been prohibited from operating, according to a brief official announcement.
The party, which seeks a “free and independent Hong Kong,” had been warned in July this year of a ban by police on the grounds that its pro-independence stance is a threat to China’s “national security.”
Hong Kong’s security minister John Lee upheld the police request to ban HKNP for the following reasons:
- The party’s call for Hong Kong’s independence violated the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
- The party is trying to infiltrate educational institutions and spreading “hatred and discrimination” against the mainland in Hong Kong.
If party members defy the ban, they could be jailed for three years and fined US$12,802 for running an “unlawful society.”
HKNP leader Andy Chan, above, was not available for comment on the ban.
Rights activist Kong Tsung-gan called it a “chilling” moment in Hong Kong’s history.
He said the party has ever used force or incited others to do so. None of its leaders have been arrested, prosecuted or found guilty of criminal activities.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the ban “a milestone in the Beijing and Hong Kong governments’ assault on Hong Kong’s freedoms”.
It is a dangerous precedent that could see more pro-democracy groups banned, HRW added.
While Hong Kong under Britain followed the rule of law and ensured freedom of expression to its citizens at the time of handover, both these democratic values suffered under Chinese rule.
Seventeen years later, tens of thousands of people who respected rule of law and human freedom joined the Umbrella Movement protests demanding the right to directly elect the chief executive for Hong Kong instead of being ruled by a China-appointed leader.
China suppressed the 2014 Umbrella protests with an iron hand and parties like HKNP were formed by people who felt Hong Kong can never win freedom under Chinese rule.
Although China is expected to respect the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people until 2047 under the handover deal with Britain, it has already banned pro-democracy candidates from running for political office and removed six elected legislators for modifying their oaths of office as a protest.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam views any discussion of Hong Kong independence as illegal.