Hong Kong localism and independence

Hong Kong National Party misses official deadline to justify its separatist agenda, filing almost four hours late, as government ponders ban

Pro-independence organisation had already received three extensions to formally argue its case, following a police proposal to outlaw the party for posing an ‘imminent threat to Chinese national security’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2018, 8:27pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2018, 1:23pm

A Hong Kong separatist party facing an unprecedented ban missed a government deadline of 5pm on Friday to submit written arguments on why it should not be outlawed, eventually doing so almost four hours late.

Hong Kong National Party convenor Andy Chan Ho-tin said the delay was down to the city’s Companies Registry not providing documents critical to the case.

The pro-independence party, which had already been handed three extensions, said the registry had on Thursday promised they could provide the information, but had not done so by the close of business on Friday.

“We have tried to obtain the documents today but in vain,” Chan said on Friday night after turning in the party’s submission at 8.45pm.

“So we took some time to review our submission as that piece of evidence was critical to our case.”

Chan said the party reserved the right to submit additional information to the government’s Security Bureau in the coming 14 days.

The bureau confirmed it had received the submissions. It said it would not comment further at this stage.

Earlier in the day, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu had been tight-lipped on the matter when grilled by reporters at a press conference on Super Typhoon Mangkhut, which was projected to hit the city on Sunday.

“I’ve no plan to answer that today,” Lee said.

A government source said the minister was expected to make a decision on the matter in the next few weeks once the party had set out its case.

Hong Kong National Party given extra week to submit arguments against unprecedented police proposal to ban it over national security concerns

The row stems from a recommendation by police in July that the party be outlawed under the city’s Societies Ordinance for posing an “imminent threat to national security”. The force accused the organisation of making comprehensive plans and taking concrete steps to realise Hong Kong independence.

Police cited “propaganda” through media channels, “school infiltration”, street booths and building overseas connections with “separatist forces” as evidence.

But legal scholars warned that such activities did not justify a crackdown, especially when police had acknowledged the party had not resorted to violence.

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Under the Societies Ordinance, Hong Kong’s security minister must make the decision, but an appeal could be filed, which would eventually land on the desk of Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. Lam could then consult the Executive Council, her quasi-cabinet of policy advisers, before having the final say.

A former Hong Kong deputy director of public prosecutions, John Reading, said that technically the government could now go ahead with a ban “because the deadline has not been met”.

A court would favour the government since three extensions were given, Reading said, but he cautioned that officials still needed to act reasonably. Another extension would do little harm, he added.

Legal sources said two teams representing Chan and party co-founder Jason Chow Ho-fai would file separate cases for each.

Their arguments would hinge on freedom of speech and association, which are both protected by the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

The Post earlier reported that the party would also centre its case on procedural justice by arguing that Lam had already made up her mind on any appeal that might be launched.

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Anti-independence comments by Lam and her advisers had made clear that they held a predetermined view on the matter prejudicial to the party, a source familiar with the case said.

Last month, Chan delivered a controversial speech on his party’s views at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club. The event was attacked by pro-China politicians, and Lam said officials would “take action” if the law had been breached.

Both Beijing and the Hong Kong government condemned the club’s decision to invite Chan to share his pro-independence views.

Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, a former law dean of the University of Hong Kong, said it would be difficult for the government to reject the party’s submission if there was a good reason for the lateness.

“The delay was short and did not cause any prejudice to the government, but this issue has grave consequences for the party,” he said. “To decide the matter on a technical point of delay would only invite judicial intervention.”

A court would not be very sympathetic to the government if a decision were made on such a technicality, Chan said.