A Hong Kong separatist party will fight a proposed ban by arguing the city’s leader has already made up her mind on any appeal it might launch, the Post has learned.
The Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) would focus on anti-independence comments Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her advisers made before the unprecedented ban was finalised, a source familiar with the matter said.
However, the party – which on Monday was given its third extension, until September 14, to register its opposition to the ban – had yet to decide when to respond.
“Their speeches are unfair to the HKNP as Lam and some Executive Council members spoke about the matter and may have a predetermined view,” the source said.
“Another key argument will be that the party and its founder [Andy Chan Ho-tin] are entitled to freedom of speech under the law and international human rights law.”
Lam would have the final say on the ban if the party appealed.
In July, police recommended the HKNP be banned under the Societies Ordinance for posing an imminent threat to national security.
A week after that, Lam – without specifically mentioning the party – said any advocacy of independence in the city “most certainly will face suppression”, for the first time hinting separatists could face legal consequences.
In mid-August, after Chan controversially gave a speech on independence at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), Lam said the government would “take action” if the law had been breached. Both Beijing and the Hong Kong government condemned the club’s decision to invite him for a talk.
Executive councillor Ronny Tong Ka-wah also commented frequently on the proposed ban and the HKNP’s activities.
For example, he said Chan’s FCC speech on August 14 could be used to support the ban.
But the party noted that Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu – also a member of Exco – had remained tight-lipped on how he would decide on the ban.
Under the Societies Ordinance, after the security minister had made his decision any appeal would eventually land at Lam, who would take advice from Exco, her cabinet.
Tong said Exco had no role to play before the security minister considered the ban.
“Even if there is an appeal to Exco, I’m prepared to be excused from the meeting,” he said, adding that his comments to the media were “not directed at the HKNP’s case and only concerned the law”.
On Monday, the Security Bureau gave the HKNP its third extension, although the party had again asked for the date to be extended to October 5.
The latest extension came after police last week included Chan’s FCC speech and an open letter he wrote to the United States requesting Hong Kong effectively be included in US trade policies against China as further evidence to support the ban.
A government source acknowledged the ordinance did not give the exact procedure for handling an extension. “The security minister would consider whether there was a need to grant an extension,” the source said.
The ordinance only states the security minister must give any group subject to a proposed ban an “opportunity” to respond.
Tong, a barrister, argued the three extensions meant the bureau fulfilled the requirement to be fair to the party.