The true purpose of banning the National Party
Despite the summer lull in local politics, there is a serious side to this unprecedented move by the government: it is to establish a legal precedent for future crackdowns
The furore over the banning of the secessionist Hong Kong National Party is what I call a good row. Everyone gets to prove their political credentials and feign outrage by taking a public stance.
The government needs to show its hardline bosses in Beijing that it means business when it comes to national security.
Having successfully jailed for years a bunch of localist rioters from the 2016 Mong Kok unrest, why not take on a fringe political outfit that advocates independence for Hong Kong and brand it “an imminent threat”?
Thankfully, that also gives our demoralised opposition something to get on their high horse about during this slow, hot summer.
Suddenly, party chief Andy Chan Ho-tin, who has mostly disappeared from media view, is treated like a celebrity – quite literally.
Leftist newspapers dispatched their own paparazzi to track the engineering graduate day and night, and revealed him to be – well, depending on your sympathy – either a heart throb, a heartbreaker or an immoral cheat. He was photographed dating various young women, all of whom were described as “attractive”.
Chan has also become the city’s hottest public speaker, having taken part at RTHK’s City Forum and as co-host in the popular online Myradio, run by maverick politician and former lawmaker Raymond Wong Yuk-man.
He has also been invited to speak at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
His upcoming talk at the FCC has provoked complaints from the foreign ministry in Beijing, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her predecessor Leung Chun-ying, thereby guaranteeing a full house.
Meanwhile, it was perfect timing for Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, former lawmaker and democracy advocate, who has a new political memoir out. What better time to come out in defence of free speech and Chan?
Chan himself is enjoying his new-found spotlight; enjoy while you can.
But, there is a more serious purpose behind the government’s plan to ban the National Party as a test case, about which I have written in this space.
Contrary to claims by the opposition, the move is not preparation for national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law.
Lam doesn’t want to risk another debacle like what happened in 2003. Instead, she wants to prove that Hong Kong could protect national security under existing laws.
That’s why the government will be following every legal and judicial procedure, including giving Chan’s party a deadline extension to defend itself – to establish a legal precedent for future crackdowns.