Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying dismissed allegations that his social media posts in the past few days were meant to threaten the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) for inviting pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin to speak at the club.
Leung said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that while Hong Kong enjoys freedom of the press and freedom of speech under the Basic Law, it also has responsibilities, including those under Article 23 of the mini-constitution, which stipulates that it should implement laws against treason, secession, sedition and subversion, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
These are “clear and absolute red lines” that no freedoms Hong Kong people enjoy can override, said Leung, who is currently vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body.
Last Saturday, Leung wrote an open letter to the FCC, saying that the club was only paying a token rent for its office at 2 Lower Albert Road in Central because the government considers freedom of press very important.
But he said it is ironic that the club has invited Chan, co-founder and convenor of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), to talk there about Hong Kong independence.
While Leung clearly wanted the FCC to withdraw its invitation to Chan, the club said in a statement on Monday that it believes its members and the public at large have the right to hear the views of different sides in any debate.
In his fifth post in four days on Tuesday, Leung took aim at the FCC again, accusing the club of “crossing the line” for inviting Chan to be a luncheon speaker at the club, describing Chan as “not just another member of the political opposition” but the convenor of the HKNP with “the declared objective of severing Hong Kong from China”, which is against Article 23 of the Basic Law.
The former chief executive also demanded that the FCC “disclose to the public the full lease” of its premises since the building is a public asset, adding that the lease should be reviewed.
This prompted local and foreign press organizations to ask him to stop threatening the club.
In response, Leung said that providing a venue for Chan to speak about independence should not be linked to freedom of speech, adding that even FCC’s first vice president Victor Mallett does not see his comments on the premises of the club as a threat.
Based on Article 23 of the Basic Law, it is the duty of the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong to tell the club, as it did so, that people like Chan or anyone from the HKNP should not be allowed to talk at the club, Leung said.
Meanwhile, four pro-democracy lawmakers – Gary Fan Kwok-wai, Claudia Mo Man-ching, Leung Yiu-chung and Ted Hui Chi-fung – and several civil society groups slammed Leung for interfering with FCC’s operations and thereby seriously impairing the city’s freedoms.
They also accused Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor of failing to a good job of protecting Hongkongers’ rights.
In a statement, the Democratic Party said it is against Hong Kong independence, but everyone should be allowed to express his views because freedom of speech is protected under Article 27 of the Basic Law.
The party lashed out at Leung for seeking to undermine this freedom, adding that such acts would only fuel the advocacy of Hong Kong independence.
In a related development, a handful of members of Real Hongkongers View, an anti-independence group, marched from Chater Garden to Lower Albert Road to stage a protest in front of the FCC building and ask the club to cancel Chan’s speaking engagement on Aug. 14. They said they may stage another protest on the day of the speech.
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