Date
10 December 2018
Andy Chan is surrounded by members of the media as he leaves the Foreign Correspondents’ Club on Aug. 14. Thanks to the government's heavy-handed tactics against Chan’s political party, he became an ‘international figure’ overnight. Photo: AFP
Andy Chan is surrounded by members of the media as he leaves the Foreign Correspondents’ Club on Aug. 14. Thanks to the government's heavy-handed tactics against Chan’s political party, he became an ‘international figure’ overnight. Photo: AFP

Why a full-on war against the HKNP will only backfire

Hong Kong authorities have invoked the Societies Ordinance in a bid to suppress the independence-leaning Hong Kong National Party (HKNP). The establishment camp, meanwhile, has lashed out at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) after the club recently held a luncheon event featuring the HKNP convenor, Andy Chan Ho-tin.

The campaign against the HKNP and Chan is, frankly, an over-reaction.

As far as the vast majority of the people of Hong Kong are concerned, Chan is a nobody. All he did over the past two years was chant slogans, with no solid action whatsoever to advance his cause.

However, thanks to the government’s disproportionately high-profile crackdown on the HKNP, Chan has caught the attention of the Western media and became an “international figure” overnight.

That is not to say that all foreign media outlets are holding Chan in high regard.

For example, Time magazine has referred to the HKNP as a “statement party” that is long on talk but short on action, and described Chan as a “charisma-free” figure.

The US magazine’s portrayal of Chan pretty much coincides with the prevailing public perception of him in Hong Kong.

Chan has become suddenly famous only because the government and the pro-Beijing camp have blown things completely out of proportion and ganged up on him in an intimidating way.

The unnecessary heavy-handedness in tackling the HKNP has backfired on the government, as the vindictive actions have enabled the party to gain extra media exposure and draw more public attention, thereby boosting the group’s bargaining chips.

In my opinion, the best way for Beijing to curb Hong Kong independence calls is not to rattle the saber, but rather to reassure the people of Hong Kong that the central government is determined to uphold the “one country, two systems” principle and restore domestic and international confidence over the city’s freedoms.

In the meantime, there is absolutely no need for frontline figures in the pro-establishment camp to go to extreme lengths to hammer the HKNP. All it takes to contain the issue is for the authorities to always act according to the law.

Coming to the FCC, any threat to terminate the lease of the club’s premises at this point would only provoke revulsion among Hong Kong people and only add to doubts among the international community as to whether the “one country, two systems” principle still stands.

If China really wants Hong Kong to continue to fulfill its intended role as an international financial hub, it must respect the fundamental differences between the city and the mainland.

Authorities must avoid undermining the “one country, two systems” principle in the name of fighting separatist sentiment in the territory.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 25

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/RC

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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