The government has invoked the Societies Ordinance in a bid to ban the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP).
Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said on July 17 he had given the group 21 days to submit a written defense against the ban, but the outcome of an appeal is almost a foregone conclusion.
The Security Bureau’s heavy-handed move begs the question: Does the HKNP, founded in 2016, really constitute an imminent and substantial threat to national security to warrant such an all-out crackdown?
Two prominent members of the HKNP are its co-founder and convenor Andy Chan Ho-tin and spokesman Jason Chow Ho-fai.
The party once said that it wouldn’t rule out “armed revolution” as an option to advance its agenda, but so far all they have done over the past two years is just talk, hand out flyers, hold a few press conferences, post on Facebook, and give media interviews.
By doing such activities, does the party really constitute a threat?
The government has blown things completely out of proportion by treating the HKNP as if it were a real “threat” to national security.
True, there are limits to freedom and civil rights even in free democracies.
As Article 22 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stipulates, no restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those which are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
There are quite a lot of people in Hong Kong who find it hard to agree with the HKNP and the political ideals it embraces.
Nonetheless, this is the first time that the SAR government has ever used its public authority to ban a political organization, an act which would become a legal precedent and have profound and far-reaching implications for society in the long run.
As such, the government has the obligation to clearly explain to the public whether it truly has justifiable grounds for banning the group, and whether its exercise of power is proportional to the actual situation.
As stated in Article 1 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China.
Given that, it is not difficult to comprehend why safeguarding national security means there must be no tolerance to Hong Kong independence.
Nevertheless, the exact of definition of “threat” to national security can vary wildly from people to people.
And if we allow the definition of “threat” to be magnified and government power to grow unchecked, it might eventually bring about a chilling effect, but would hardly convince the public.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 21
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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