Hong Kong Government Bans Pro-Independence National Party

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The Hong Kong National Party, a small political party dedicated to making Hong Kong an independent state, has been banned by the Chinese-controlled Hong Kong government, the New York Times reports.

While the party has few members, none of whom have been elected as representatives, its stated goal of a free, independent Hong Kong has engendered scrutiny from both the Hong Kong and the Beijing governments.

The Hong Kong government announced the ban, which had been suggested was being considered in July by security secretary John Lee, in the government gazette.

“I cannot ignore the fact that the Hong Kong National Party has repeatedly advocated that it will use all methods, including the use of force, and also encouraging its supporters to use force,” said Lee today. He said the party had promoted hatred and discrimination toward mainland Chinese in Hong Kong.

Civil rights advocates, however decried the move as being a step backward from the political freedoms Hong Kong enjoys as compared to mainland China.

“The banning of the Hong Kong National Party is a milestone in the Beijing and Hong Kong governments’ assault on Hong Kong’s freedoms,” said Maya Wang, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. “The ban violates a range of human rights guaranteed to Hong Kong people, including the rights to freedom of association and assembly.”

The National Party’s leader, Andy Chan, had already been banned from running for office two years ago, for refusing to give an answer as to whether he would push for independence if elected.

“The nature of China is oppression,” Chan said in a speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong in August. Chan declined comment today following the official announcement that his party had been banned.

Hong Kong, which was a British colony for over 150 years, reverted to Chinese control in 1997 upon the expiration of a 99-year lease extension that had been obtained in 1898. While under Chinese control, Hong Kong provides its citizens with increased civil liberties as compared to mainland China – a program known as “one country, two systems.”

This is the first time a law known as the Societies Ordinance has been used against a political party since Hong Kong rejoined China. While prior to 1997 the law had been used to outlaw political groups like the Communist Party of China and Taiwan’s Kuomintang, the national security and public safety ordinance has since mainly been used to fight organized crime groups.