Entry refusal a matter of national security

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 May, 2008, 12:00am

Danish activist Jens Galschiot, who openly advocates 'colour revolution' and supports the Tibetan independence movement, has recently been denied entry into Hong Kong. In the mainstream media, this incident was framed as the government's high-handed violation of the freedom of expression. As usual, our dissidents plan to resort to judicial review to resolve this political problem. The Hong Kong government, on the other hand, privately uses the lame excuse of his previous scuffle with the police during the World Trade Organisation convention in 2005 to justify its decision.

While governments around the world can deny entry to anybody they do not like, and do not have to give reasons for doing so, this is very bad public relations. Although Galschiot said he just wanted to paint his Pillar of Shame sculpture orange, he has a record of clashing with police in a number of cities, and his Colour Orange project has very strong political undertones. If anything had happened, our mainstream media would have blamed the government for letting him in. However, this is beside the point. Let's face it, no government anywhere would allow in someone who openly advocates a colour revolution and supports a violent independence movement in that country. To do so would be not only foolhardy, but downright irresponsible. Would Britain have allowed someone like that into Belfast at the height of violent protests both at home and abroad? I'm guessing not. Our government can justifiably declare Galschiot persona non grata during this sensitive period.

This is not a matter of freedom of expression; it falls in the domain of national security. Denying entry to a champion of separatism is a statement of principle. Our government can say it, and say it loud. In fact, it should, if only to educate our citizens and mainstream media about the balance between personal freedom and public interest, and our civic responsibilities. If our citizens and the government are seemingly so embarrassed by, and reluctant to defend, national security, it is only natural that Beijing will be more anxious about it. Nowadays, no one in Hong Kong wants to mention national security legislation stipulated by Article 23 of the Basic Law. Sooner, rather than later, it will come, and probably in a more stringent form.

Remember, even under 'two systems', Hong Kong is still part of 'one country' - China. Ours is a multiracial country with 56 nationalities, and racial harmony is of paramount importance. It is the vital ingredient of territorial integrity, which is the primary concern of any sovereign state. Hong Kong does not have a licence to jeopardise the sensitive racial harmony within the country, especially during this volatile period, in the name of freedom of expression.

The west's use of the Olympics to unfairly humiliate China has infuriated the Chinese. After recent incidents, Beijing does not have any illusion of goodwill and fair play by the west. Come September, after the Olympics is over, the international political ecology will be drastically altered and some political backlash seems inevitable. Do we want to aggravate the situation and get ourselves hurt in the process? It is up to us to decide in the coming months.

In this respect, the Law Society magazine Hong Kong Lawyer has wisely withdrawn from publication an article articulating Tibetan independence. At this moment, the publication of a one-sided piece supporting separatism would invariably become a political issue, not an academic one - like pouring oil on the fire. Articles on this subject can be published at a more relaxed time, with balancing views. I am glad our legal establishment has refused to be involved in unnecessary partisan disputes. Common sense and decency prevails.

Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development