Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu dropped a major political bombshell on Tuesday as he announced that he has decided, on the advice of the police’s assistant societies officer, to invoke Article 8 of the Societies Ordinance to call for a ban on the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP).
It marked the first time the Hong Kong government has invoked such clause to consider banning the operation of a society since the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997.
It is said that the administration knew very well that this decision will kick up a huge controversy, and that it did have concerns about the potential legal challenge it might face.
Still, Lee still decided to press ahead with it, a development that suggests that the action had been in the making for a long time and that the administration is bent on curbing the HKNP, as the party is seen as advocating separatism.
Government sources say the government has expected the HKNP to file a judicial review lawsuit against its decision, and that it is already gearing up for the upcoming legal battle.
Although there are doubts as to whether the government is justified in trying to outlaw the HKNP, which, after all, did nothing but only talk about and promote its aims only over the past two years, the sources believe the Security Bureau may have built a strong case against the group with sufficient evidence.
As to why it took two years for the authorities to take action against the HKNP, the government said there must be a process for everything to proceed, and that it also takes time to collect evidence.
Some in the pro-establishment camp believe that officials in charge of the case may have been proceeding with extreme caution and seeking legal advice repeatedly, which explains why it took so long for them to act.
They also said they had learnt that Beijing was only informed of the decision after the SAR government had made up its mind.
And that coincides with what government sources have stressed: the administration hasn’t sought any advice from Beijing on this issue, and the Security Bureau is acting entirely in accordance with the law of Hong Kong this time.
The sources also reiterated that the decision is not related at all to the administration’s potential moves toward national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 18
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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