Hong Kong pro-independence leader Andy Chan defies Beijing to speak at Foreign Correspondents’ Club
Amid heavy police presence, protesters set up camp outside premises as Andy Chan Ho-tin vowed not to bow to pressure and amend his script
The leader of a party advocating Hong Kong independence delivered his long-awaited speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club on Tuesday afternoon despite Beijing’s objection and as pro-establishment protesters gathered outside.
Andy Chan Ho-tin, the convenor of the Hong Kong National Party, arrived at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) in Central more than two hours ahead of the event, which started at 12:30pm. He delivered a speech titled “Hong Kong Nationalism: A Politically Incorrect Guide to Hong Kong under Chinese Rule” at 1.15pm.
“Thank you for your concerns, I am already inside the FCC,” Chan wrote on his Facebook account.
It is understood he arrived at about 10am.
Police presence was heavy outside the club and numbered about 100.
Before he spoke, Chan said he would focus on Hong Kong nationalism and address the city’s freedoms and rights. He emphasised he would not bow to pressure and amend his script.
By 11am, about 50 pro-Beijing protesters from groups such as Virtue Dynamics, Voice of Loving Hong Kong and Treasure Group, gathered outside the club located at Ice House Street and Lower Albert Road. A group of pro-Beijing protesters tried to enter but was escorted away by police.
“Zero tolerance for Hong Kong independence,” pro-Beijing protesters chanted, with some calling for the government to “take back” the club’s premises.
Two pro-Beijing lawmakers, Steven Ho Chun-yin of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, and Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, were among the protesters.
The club’s first vice-president, Victor Mallet, received a letter from the groups at about noon.
A dozen of Chan’s supporters also showed up for the 27-year-old activist, but they were barred from protesting near the club as police said having the two opposing camps located next to each other might lead to scuffles.
A small group of pro-democracy protesters mustered at the crossing of Glenealy and Wyndham streets. From outside the club, police carried a lone protester holding a yellow umbrella to the crossing.
Organised by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club following the police’s proposal to impose an unprecedented ban on the Hong Kong National Party, the talk has elicited the ire of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The separatist party was thrust into the spotlight last month when Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said he was considering a police recommendation to ban the party under the Societies Ordinance on the grounds that its actions – such as street booths and “school infiltration” – had posed an imminent threat to national security.
The row escalated as the city’s former leader, Leung Chun-ying, weighed in. Leung, now one of Hong Kong’s two vice-chairmen of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a top advisory body to Beijing, crossed swords with Mallet by saying the club’s move to invite Chan had “nothing to do with press freedom”.
The ex-chief executive went a step further by daring the club to give up its lease of its government-owned building in Central and bid for the premises in the open market.
Leung’s remarks drew criticism from both global and local media groups, with the International Federation of Journalists strongly urging him to cease his attacks on the FCC.
Despite the furore, the FCC proceeded with the talk, with Mallet stressing the club did not necessarily endorse the views of its speakers.
“We want to hear [Leung’s] view, we want to hear from Beijing, but we also want to hear from those who oppose them,” Mallet said. “This is precisely what this club and freedom of expression is about.”
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor described the FCC’s choice of speaker as “regrettable” and “inappropriate”.