Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government regrets to see an organization holding an event with the theme of Hong Kong independence.
Lam was responding to a reporter’s question about what she thinks of the decision of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) to invite Andy Chan Ho-tin, co-founder and convenor of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), to speak at the club on Aug. 14.
She said it is entirely inappropriate for the FCC to invite Chan to give a speech, adding that she hopes it would respect the fact that the city is an inseparable part of China, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The chief executive’s remarks came after three officials from the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (OCMFA) in Hong Kong told the club that people like Chan or anyone from the HKNP should not be allowed to talk at the club, RTHK quoted a source aware of FCC’s affairs as saying.
Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu told media on July 17 that he was giving the HKNP, which has been accused of advocating Hong Kong independence since it was formed in 2016, 21 days to submit a written defense as to why the government should not implement a recommendation by an assistant societies officer to ban the organization.
The deadline, originally set for Aug. 7, was moved to Sept. 4 as Lee granted the HKNP’s request to extend the period to 49 days.
The FCC said on Friday that it will not cancel or postpone Chan’s scheduled speaking engagement.
Given the club’s firm stance on the matter, Lam stressed the government has to fully implement “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong and safeguard the country’s sovereignty, security and development.
The government will not tolerate any act advocating Hong Kong independence and must curb such acts according to the law, the chief executive said.
She said the government’s firm stance against independence has nothing to do with freedom of speech, which is protected by the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, adding that it can only be enjoyed by abiding by the law.
Lam declined to comment on the security bureau’s consideration of the recommendation to invoke the Societies Ordinance to ban the HKNP.
In an open letter to the FCC on Saturday, former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who is currently vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body, said the club has been only paying a token rent for its office at 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, because the government considers freedom of press very important, but it is ironic that Chan is invited to talk about Hong Kong independence there.
Lam clarified that the FCC, in fact, pays a market rent but is spared the process of open bidding when it wants to extend the lease.
In a statement issued on Monday, the FCC said it invited Chan to speak at the club for one of its regular lunchtime events as he and his party have been in the news since Hong Kong authorities have said they are considering banning the party.
“Hosting such events does not mean that we either endorse or oppose the views of our speakers, who have included senior officials of the Chinese, Hong Kong and other governments as well as their opponents, and we will continue to welcome speakers with widely differing points of view in the future,” the FCC said.
It said its “members and the public at large have the right – and in the case of journalists, the professional responsibility – to hear the views of different sides in any debate”.
The FCC also said it “fully respects the law, and champions free speech and freedom of the press across Asia”.
Chan said he will definitely be present at the club’s event next Tuesday as he criticized Lam for trying to hinder the freedom of the press, which will hurt Hong Kong’s image in the international community.
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