Hong Kong citizens voice their denouncement of the Foreign Correspondents' Club outside its office in Central for hosting a separatist talk by Andy Chan Ho-tin, an open advocate of Hong Kong independence. (PARKER ZHENG / CHINA DAILY)
Hosting of 'independence' speech unlawful, harms national security
The Foreign Ministry's top representative in Hong Kong urged the city's Foreign Correspondents' Club on Tuesday to stop harming national security under the guise of freedom of the press and speech.
The censure came in a statement issued by the Commissioner's Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region after local pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin delivered a speech at the FCC in Central.
The country's Constitution and Hong Kong's Basic Law guarantee freedom of speech, the office stressed. After 70 years in Hong Kong, the FCC must acknowledge that Hong Kong's freedom of the press is fully protected.
However, freedom entails certain limits and bottom lines, it added.
The advocacy of "Hong Kong independence" does not fall into the domain of freedom of speech as it violates the Constitution, the Basic Law and relevant law in the city, the office stressed.
Article 19 of the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stipulates that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, but that right may be subject to certain restrictions provided by law and when necessary for the protection of national security or of public order, the office cited.
The office said all countries have their own limits on freedom of speech despite different social realities and legal systems. It is unacceptable to invite war criminals from World War II to deliver a public speech in France, the office said, and Germany would never allow any party to give believers in Nazism the floor.
Moreover, no country would allow foreign organizations to invite separatists to spread notions of independence and violence.
By providing a platform for an independence advocate, the FCC intruded on Hong Kong's rule of law and abused freedom of the press, the office said.
The central government, Hong Kong SAR government and all Chinese people will not allow "Hong Kong independence" advocates and the FCC to cross a red line and the bottom line of sovereignty and national security, it stressed.
Also on Tuesday, Acting Chief Executive of the HKSAR Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the Hong Kong government "deeply regrets" and is "highly concerned" about the pro-independence talk.
Calling the FCC's move "unacceptable" and "inappropriate", Cheung stressed that the SAR government would not tolerate any "Hong Kong independence" advocacy, as it is a blatant violation of the Basic Law and a direct affront to national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
There is no room for discussing such advocacy, nor any compromises in safeguarding national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity, Cheung added.
Some 32 lawmakers issued a joint statement urging the Hong Kong government to take concrete measures to prevent local organizations from providing venues for separatists.
Several local groups gathered outside FCC in Central to protest Chan's speech and the FCC's role in the talk. Protesters condemned the advocacy of "Hong Kong independence". They also called for local legislation on the national security law.
Chan is founder of the Hong Kong National Party, the only political party in the city that explicitly advocates "Hong Kong independence" and advertises it on its website. The party is now facing a proposed government ban on operations for its possible breach of the Societies Ordinance.