22 October 2016
Hong Kong authorities are looking into the legal issues related to a new pro-independence party, say senior government officials Rimsky Yuen (L) and Lai Tung-kwok. Photos:
Hong Kong authorities are looking into the legal issues related to a new pro-independence party, say senior government officials Rimsky Yuen (L) and Lai Tung-kwok. Photos:

Govt puts pro-independence party under legal scanner

The government is working with law enforcement agencies to examine whether some people have violated the city’s Basic Law by setting up a political party that advocates Hong Kong independence, Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said. 

Legal action could be initiated if it is determined that the pro-independence advocates committed an offense under the city’s mini-constitution, the senior official said over the weekend.

Yuen said he believes that setting up a political party to fight for Hong Kong independence marks a breach of the Basic Law and provisions related to the city’s legal status.

The comments came after China’s People’s Daily newspaper, in an article published in its overseas edition late last week, suggested that action should be taken against those calling for Hong Kong to break away from China. 

Citing legal sources, the Communist Party mouthpiece said independence advocates can be deemed to have committed several offenses by setting up a political party.

It argued that the people behind the new party could be prosecuted under the Crimes Ordinance, including rules pertaining to sedition and subversion.

The party in question is the Hong Kong National Party, which was formed in March with a goal of independence for Hong Kong.

The party’s application to get itself registered as a company has been rejected by the Hong Kong government.

Beijing has warned that any political party that advocates Hong Kong independence would be seen as a direct challenge to China’s rights over Hong Kong, and also in contravention of the “one country, two systems” regime.

Yuen said authorities will determine through investigations if the Hong Kong National Party has violated the Companies Ordinance, the Societies Ordinance, and the Crimes Ordinance, among other laws, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok also said Sunday that the law is clearly laid out and that the police will act according to rules to counter those who advocate independence.

Lai did not elaborate, nor did he specify what kind of their actions would constitute violence of the law.

Johannes Chan, former law dean of the University of Hong Kong, said there is no clause in any existing law of the city that says that advocating independence is a criminal offense.

Any attempt to revise the law to incriminate independence advocates will not only constitute breach of the Bill of Rights, it will also be against Hong Kong’s core values, he said.

Wondering if Yuen was responding to pressure from Beijing, HKU principal law lecturer Eric Cheung stressed that clauses regarding the crime of sedition stipulated in the Crimes Ordinance are outdated, and are contrary to the Basic Law and Bill of Rights — both of which seek to protect freedom of speech.

Hong Kong National Party, meanwhile, said in a statement Sunday that it will be happy if authorities slap a sedition charge, as it will provide an opportunity to the group that the clauses of the Crimes Ordinance in this regard are unconstitutional.

Claiming that it is totally qualified to be registered as a company, the party said the Companies Registry’s rejection of its application is solid proof that the government is acting against rules related to freedom of doing business in the city.

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