Beijing has asked Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to submit a report on the ban on the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), which had been formed in 2016 with an objective to push for Hong Kong independence.
The demand by central authorities for a report on the action taken against an opposition party prompted fierce criticism from the pro-democracy camp, which labeled the central government move as unprecedented interference in Hong Kong affairs.
At a media session on Tuesday, Lam, accompanied by Security Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu, revealed that the central government issued a letter to her earlier that day endorsing her administration’s September 2018 decision to prohibit the operations of HKNP.
The chief executive made public the contents of the letter, which contained three main points－expressing support for the decision, reiterating that in accordance with China’s constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law, Hong Kong has the constitutional responsibility to safeguard national security, and, third, stating that the chief executive is accountable to the central government in accordance with the law.
Calling the ban in line with the Hong Kong government’s zero tolerance stance on acts advocating the territory’s independence, Lam said the central government expressed its support in the form of a letter as well as gave due recognition to the work of the HKSAR government.
Lam also revealed that she was instructed to submit a report regarding the ban on the HKNP.
The chief executive told media that the report will likely cover the process, the facts and the legal procedures that resulted in the prohibition of the operation of the HKNP, which will demonstrate that the HKSAR Government acts according to the law.
While saying that she is inclined to make the report public, Lam announced that she will seek the advice of the Department of Justice on whether this can be done, having regard to possible judicial reviews submitted by the individuals concerned, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Asked how she would respond to criticism that Beijing’s involvement in the HKNP matter amounts to interference in Hong Kong’s local issues, Lam stressed that there is absolutely no question of interference by the central government.
There is nothing wrong in a letter being issued by the central government, she said, claiming that the Beijing move demonstrates the central government’s support to actions taken by the Hong Kong government.
As the chief executive accountable to the central government, Lam said she needs to submit reports from time to time, reiterating that her plan to submit a report on the process of the HKNP ban and related circumstances is “legitimate” and would be a demonstration of her constitutional responsibility.
Sending the report does not mean weakening the “one country, two systems” principle, or eroding Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy”, Lam added.
The comments, however, failed to satisfy opposition groups, as they fretted about Beijing’s perceived interference in Hong Kong affairs.
In a statement, the Civic Party accused Beijing of directly meddling in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, and expressed deep concern that Lam has accepted Beijing’s demand without questioning.
The party urged Lam to not submit a report on the HKNP matter to Beijing.
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said central authorities’ interest over the ban can only have the opposite effect, as it would only make more people think of challenging Beijing’s bottom line.
Johannes Chan Man-mun, a professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong, said it was unwise for Beijing to issue the public letter.
Chan, who is also a honorary senior counsel in Hong Kong, pointed out that the move by Beijing will only lead people to think it might intend to use the letter to exert pressure on the court if the HKNP lodges a judicial review.
Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, pointed out that central authorities are responsible for maintaining the national security and territorial integrity.
The court in charge of the case in a judicial review, if there is one, has to consider what the central government insists on in this regard, he said.
HKNP leader Andy Chan Ho-tin, meanwhile, did not respond to media inquiries as of Tuesday as to whether he will apply for a judicial review after the Chief Executive in Council on Feb. 19 rejected Chan’s appeal against the ban.
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