National Independent Party: Terror group or political bogeyman?

June 16, 2015 16:03
Documents and other items seized during a police raid on an abandoned building in Sai Kung. Photos: RTHK, Reuters

News that police seized explosives and arrested members of a shadowy group following a raid on an abandoned building in Sai Kung certainly perked things up at the start of the week. 

The suspects were described as members of a political group called National Independent Party, whose goal, as the name implies, is to gain independence for Hong Kong. 

It is supposedly a radical group who will not hesitate to employ violence to achieve its ends. In fact, police said they seized from the group maps showing the locations of Admiralty and Wan Chai as well as a dynamite depot in Ma On Shan.

They were allegedly plotting to sow terror and chaos in the city as the Legislative Council deliberates and votes on the government's political reform proposal this week.

This is indeed unsettling. Not since police officers manhandled unarmed activists and attacked them with tear gas and pepper spray in last year's Occupy protests has violence figured in recent political activities.

But what is worrisome is that the authorities have branded this group as a "localist", thereby lumping it together with other activist groups which have no intention of employing violence in their pursuit of genuine autonomy for Hong Kong.

In fact, none of the pro-democracy groups knew about the National Independent Party until it was divulged by the authorities.

A check with its Facebook fan page showed that it has around 120 "likes" since the account was opened in January.

After the raid on the former ATV studio on Ho Chung Road, police officials held an on-site press conference to elaborate on the nature of the group, based on the evidence they have gathered.

Police said they found leaflets saying "Chun Ying, go to hell" and "Black police die with their families".

These slogans are quite strange for members of localist political groups. In the first place, they never call Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying by his first name. They just call him "689", which refers to the number of votes he got from the election committee to win the post in 2012.

As far as we know, only pro-Beijing publications such as Sing Tao Daily call him Chun-ying in their news reports.

Another bizarre word found in the group's leaflets is "reunification" to describe the city's return to Chinese rule in 1997. This is a word used by authorities in Beijing, not by known radical political groups in Hong Kong.

Another leaflet found on the site says: "Please vote for Umbrella Localists." Now, localist groups have distanced themselves from the Umbrella Movement as early as the first few weeks of the protests since they believe the campaign won't achieve anything.

They certainly don't want to be described as "Umbrella Localists".

In fact, the name of the group — National Independent Party — does not reflect the goal of genuine localist groups.

Localist groups want to focus their struggle on achieving genuine autonomy for Hong Kong. This means they want to reduce the importance of China in the city's political, social and cultural life. They want Hong Kong to have its unique status, instead of being a mere administrative region of China.

As to be expected, pro-democracy groups immediately clarified that they had nothing to do with the National Independent Party or its officers and members, or with its alleged plans to attack Legco later this week.

Hong Kong Localism Power and People Power stressed that they do not condone violence.

"Police said localist activists are making bombs, but I am not sure if it's real or not," Jon Ho of Hong Kong Localism Power was quoted as saying. "We have nothing to do with that."

People Power's Tam Tak-chi added: "People Power did not do that. Our group does not believe in violence."

So who are the people behind the National Independent Party?

It is becoming clear that this shadowy group is besmirching the image of localist political groups. It is being used to portray "localists" as violent groups that intend to sow chaos and disorder in the city to pursue their agenda.

And who would benefit if localist activists are portrayed as violent radicals?

Certainly not the localists and other pro-democracy activists, certainly not their cause of achieving genuine universal suffrage and true autonomy for Hong Kong.

It's the enemies of pro-democracy groups that will gain from this atmosphere of fear and suspicion that is being created in the city.

As Legco prepares to vote for the government's political reform package, we hope everyone will maintain sobriety and allow reason to prevail in the deliberations.

But if violence breaks out outside the Legco complex, the authorities can easily put the blame on the localists and pan-democrats — thanks to the National Independent Party.

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EJ Insight writer