Journalists in Hong Kong defy govt request to cancel speech
China's foreign ministry asked the Foreign Correspondents Club this month to cancel a talk by Andy Chan of the Hong Kong National Party.
A journalists' association in Hong Kong says it will defy the Chinese government and follow through with a planned speech by a pro-independence activist that has become a mounting political flashpoint in the city.
The request raised questions about Beijing's growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy and freedom of speech as part of a 1997 handover arrangement.
The FCC said in a statement today it believes its members and the public have the right "to hear the views of different sides in any debate" and will continue with the event.
"We believe that in free societies such as Hong Kong it is vitally important to allow people to speak and debate freely, even if one does not agree with their particular views," the club statement said.
The 75-year-old organisation has previously hosted politicians and newsmakers, including pro-Beijing speakers, at its iconic clubhouse in central Hong Kong.
It is set to host Chan on August 14 for a talk titled "Hong Kong Nationalism: A Politically Incorrect Guide to Hong Kong under Chinese Rule." The perception that Beijing is reneging on its promise and eroding Hong Kong's free elections and freedom of speech is helping fuel a rising generation of young activists calling for greater autonomy, if not outright independence.
Huge pro-democracy protests erupted in 2014 in response to the decision by China's ruling Communist Party to retain the right to effectively pre-screen candidates for Hong Kong's leadership.
The movement has been met with repeated warnings from Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, that separatist activity would not be tolerated.
Hong Kong police have told Chan, 27, that he has until September 4 to provide a legal defence of the HKNP or else it will be disbanded under a 1997 ordinance that allows authorities to shut down groups deemed an imminent threat to national security.
Hong Kong officials have dismissed the FCC's argument that Chan's appearance amounts to a free speech matter, with the territory's former chief executive CY Leung equating the FCC event with giving a platform to "criminals and terrorists".
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)