World

HK bans pro-independence group, first since 1997 handover

HONG KONG : Authorities yesterday formally banned a group promoting independence from China - the first outlawing of a political party since Britain handed its former colony back to Chinese rule in 1997.

The city's Secretary for Security John Lee announced the ban on the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) in a statement in the government's gazette, 10 days after the party submitted arguments against the move.

He ordered the ban under the Societies Ordinance, a colonial-era law that requires all social groups and organisations to register with the police.

The law allows the government to ban groups "in the interests of national security, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others".

Mr Lee later told reporters that the two-year-old group was prepared to use "all methods" to forge independence, which posed a threat to national security and broke the Basic Law, the mini-constitution that governs Hong Kong's relations with China.

"It has a clear agenda in making Hong Kong a republic," Mr Lee said, adding that the group had spread "hatred and discrimination against (the) Chinese".

Hong Kong could not rule out action against other groups, including those promoting "self determination" as well as full independence, he said.

Hong Kong's nascent independence movement shows little sign of generating public support but the government's July announcement that it was considering a ban on the HKNP propelled its leader, Mr Andy Chan, to prominence.

The 28-year-old has been widely quoted in the media in recent weeks. Last month, he spoke at Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents' Club, a move condemned by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

"I will never stop in my pursuit of freedom, human rights, equality and dignity," Mr Chan told Reuters earlier.

China's central government backed yesterday's ban, with a spokesman for the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office expressing "resolute support".- REUTERS

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