Hong Kong National Party gets 28 extra days to argue against police attempt to ban it
The separatist party and its leader Andy Chan Ho-tin now have until September 4 to make their case to the city’s security minister
Hong Kong’s Security Bureau has given a pro-independence party facing a possible ban an extra 28 days to submit arguments against the unprecedented proposal by the police.
On Tuesday evening, it gave the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) until September 4 to make its case to the security minister, instead of August 7 as previously announced.
“Having considered the matter, the secretary for security has decided to extend the period for representation to 49 days … the legal representative of the convenor of the Hong Kong National Party has been informed,” a bureau spokesman said.
But a source said party leader Andy Chan Ho-tin would likely seek a second extension, as he had originally asked the bureau to stretch the deadline to early October.
“There is just not enough time to review the documents,” the source said, referring to the materials police had collected to build a case against the party.
The bureau’s move came two weeks after Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said he was considering a police recommendation to ban the HKNP for flouting the Societies Ordinance, and gave it 21 days, or until August 7, to convince him otherwise.
In an 86-page document, police had described the separatist party as an “imminent threat” to national security because of its leader’s concrete actions to advance an independence agenda for Hong Kong and pledge to achieve it by “whatever effective means”.
The document came with 20 discs and 706 pages of transcripts of the 51 speeches and interviews given by party members online, at public events and to the media.
Last week, Chan’s legal team asked the bureau for a two-month extension to reply to the proposed ban.
Sources close to the team earlier said the authorities’ failure to grant an extension would only boost its efforts to challenge a ban on the basis of “procedural unfairness”. This could bolster its bid for a judicial review on the government’s decision, a source said.
On Friday, the team asked for surveillance materials to be handed over by Monday, three days later, and called on the bureau to confirm there had been no communication between the bureau and the force before it recommended banning the party. That call was made to find out whether the government had originally ordered the force to study the option of a ban.
Under the Societies Ordinance, the security minister is required to give an affected group “an opportunity to be heard” or a chance to make “representations in writing” before deciding on a ban.
However, the law does not give specific details, including how much time the affected society should be given to respond. A political party has never before faced a ban.
Barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah, an adviser to the city’s leader, said the security minister’s latest move may have factored in the lack of established procedures over time limits.
“Because there are no precedents, the security minister may have been inclined to entertain the HKNP’s request to prevent giving them firepower in court,” Tong said.
The barrister said the extension from three weeks to seven weeks would essentially quash arguments on “procedural unfairness” related to time. Tong failed to see the need for a second or third extension.
“The minister was already very generous and more than reasonable,” he said.
As of Tuesday evening, authorities had not responded to Chan’s request for confirmation of no communication or for surveillance records.