Hong Kong pro-independence political parties have Lunar New Year stalls terminated due to public order and safety concerns
Food and health minister says government was forced to ‘terminate’ licence agreements
The food and health minister on Thursday cited safety reasons for the government’s decision to bar two pro-independence parties from having stalls at the city’s largest Lunar New Year fair.
Youngspiration and the Hong Kong National Party received letters from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department on Tuesday and Wednesday stating that licence agreements for their stalls in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay had been terminated.
The letters said the department believed the items the parties intended to sell and the activities they had planned related to pro-independence messages. In a fair packed with people, with some agreeing and others disagreeing to the political ideas, public order would probably be endangered, it added.
“We believe the risk of affecting public order was huge after assessment. To ensure the safety of public members attending the fair, we were forced to cancel the licence agreements,” Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said.
A government spokesman said there were recent incidents in which public order had been hampered due to the advocacy of pro-independence messages. The decision was based on an assessment by law enforcement agencies and deemed “reasonable, necessary and appropriate”.
Hong Kong National Party’s Andy Chan Ho-tin said the ban violated freedom of speech, as protected by the Basic Law.
“It is definitely political suppression,” he said, adding it was a long-standing practice of local political parties to operate stalls.
Chan insisted their merchandise, comprising books and apparel, broke no local laws.
“The terms of the contract didn’t specify that we couldn’t sell anything about Hong Kong independence,” he said.
Party member Jason Chow Ho-fai, who was granted permission for the stall, said they were considering writing a letter to US president-elect Donald Trump urging him to take note of Hong Kong’s political situation, and filing a claim against the authority to seek compensation.
Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang, one of two disqualified Youngspiration lawmakers, demanded a full explanation from the FEHD by the end of business hours today.
“We are furious with the FEHD. I believe no Lunar New Year stalls have been terminated like this before,” he said.
While Leung said the party was not directly related to the stall applicants, he admitted two of them planned to use sale proceeds to fund his and Yau Wai-ching’s legal bid to have their Legislative Council seats reinstated.
Alan Li Tung-sing, Leung’s former assistant, was one of the applicants for the stall. Leung said Li applied on an individual basis and had not revealed his link to the party in the process.
He questioned the grounds of the government’s decision as the party had not confirmed what it was going to sell.