Andy Chan is convener of the Hong Kong National Party, a political organization dedicated to seeking independence for the special administrative region. So when he managed to show up for a talk on the subject at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club on Tuesday, the fallout was bound to be severe.
Beijing and its underlings in the city’s pro-establishment political camp are now fuming at how both Chan and the FCC shrugged off condemnation of an event that was deemed so controversial, and which went ahead as planned.
Chan referred to Beijing as “Peking” in a speech that was seen as lacking in substance or specifics, other than the usual broadsides against Beijing’s policies toward the city. However, it has become apparent that concerted attempts to suppress Chan’s FCC speech actually boomeranged and amplified his otherwise marginal views, as it resulted in considerable overseas press attention.
“If Hong Kong were to become truly democratic, Hong Kong’s sovereignty must rest with the people of Hong Kong. And there is only one way to achieve this: independence,” Chan said in his speech to a packed venue.
“We even had the honor of receiving the first ever ‘Letter Prohibiting Assembly’ from the police since 1997. And now, as you all know, the government is trying to shut us down completely, calling us an ‘illegal society.’
“The situation is so dire that we daresay Hong Kong has never experienced such horrid colonialism since 1997. Peking is now our colonial master, and the Hong Kong National Party has a real need to exist.”
But some critics feel that Chan has made his bed and will now have to lie in it. One consequence, as he admitted after the lunchtime event, is that his talk has made international headlines. These may be cited by the Hong Kong government’s Security Bureau as the latest example of what it considers Chan’s and his party’s dangerous demagoguery, clearly calling for action to split Hong Kong from China.
This comes ahead of the Security Bureau’s much-anticipated decision next month on whether Chan’s party should be banned according to the Societies Ordinance.
Chan told reporters that in the worst-case scenario, he may be put behind bars: “The writing is on the wall even if I choose to appeal” against the bureau’s ruling, he said.
He added that he hoped the penalty to be meted out by a local court for running his party as an illegal group would be lenient, noting, “I hope to be freed in three months” if jailed.
The Societies Ordinance stipulates that any office-bearer or any person professing or claiming to be an office-bearer of any unlawful society shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,740) and to imprisonment for three years.
Some observers are worried that the local authorities at Beijing’s beck and call may also proceed to outlaw other parties and groups demanding self-determination and greater autonomy even if they have no stated pro-independence platforms.
Some say Demosisto, a localist party, stands to be next to be banned.
Demosisto’s convener Joshua Wong, who received considerable overseas media attention during Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy protest, was disqualified alongside Chan from running for seats in the local legislature in 2016.