Police went to the house of party founder Andy Chan, who has 21 days to justify why it should not be banned. The decision is based on an ordinance adopted in the 1990s that bans associations that undermine public order.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hong Kong's government has been discussing the possibility of banning the autonomous region’s pro-independence party. The latter’s spokesman and founder, Andy Chan, said he received papers from the police to that effect.
If the ban is implemented membership in the party as well as acting and raising funds on its behalf will be illegal. Offenders could face up to three years in prison and fines of up to US$ 12,000.
Hong Kong’s security secretary John Lee has said that the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) has 21 days to justify why it should not be banned.
“In Hong Kong we have freedom of association, but that right is not without restriction,” Lee explained, adding that the party could be banned "in the interests of national security."
He also noted that restrictions on freedom of association can be made for reasons listed in the Bill of Rights, such as “national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
Similarly, under section 8(1)(a) of the Societies Ordinance, the Societies Officer may recommend that the security secretary prohibit a society if there are national security or safety concerns, or the rights of others are infringed.
If the ban is implemented, this would be the first time since the city was handed over to China in 1997 that this section of law has been used.
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong said the threat shows the real face of Chinese interference in the former British colony.
"[W]e have entered a new era of white terror,” he said, “where anyone's thoughts and words could condemn them with a criminal charge."
"In the past few years,” he added, “the Hong Kong government has used the excuse of protecting national security to manipulate administrative procedures to suppress dissidents, such as suspending company registration procedures for certain political parties and the disqualification of candidates”.
The HKNP was founded in 2016 to advocate for Hong Kong's independence from China. However, its candidates were barred from running in the year’s election.
The group has also struggled to get police permission to hold rallies or protests.
Speaking on the matter, Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, said, "We attempted to reform the Public Order Ordinance in the 1990s and made a number of changes because it was clear that the vague definitions in the legislation are open to abuse and do not conform with United Nations human rights standards”.
"It is disappointing to see that the legislation is now being used politically to place extreme sentences on the pan-democrats and other activists."