Hong Kong’s Andy Chan, 27, is playing a dangerous game. His pro-independence National Party is calling for Hong Kong to become independent from mainland China.
A ban on dissent
Although the size of Chan’s party is insignificant, Hong Kong’s government has threatened to ban the National Party as soon as September 4. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said last week, “Any speech or acts that advocate Hong Kong independence cannot be tolerated and would most certainly face suppression.”
Last year, China’s President Xi Jinping warned that any challenge to China’s rule was “an act that crosses the red line, and is absolutely impermissible.”
A ban with teeth
How precarious is Chan’s position? On November 28, 2017, a Chinese court sentenced Lee Ming-che, 42, a Taiwanese human-rights activist, to five years in prison for “subverting state power” by advocating for Taiwan’s independence from China.
China may also be ready to target Western groups working there. Patrick Poon, a researcher at Amnesty International in Hong Kong, described Lee’s case not only as a warning for Taiwanese citizens engaged in human-rights work but for any foreigner working for a nonprofit in China. According to an article on Quartz, a digitally native news outlet, “Given China’s vague definition of ‘subversion,’ any foreigner doing such work could potentially be a target.”
A ban with a warning
Financial Times observes, “Communist party officials see Taiwan and Hong Kong’s democratic values as a direct threat to Beijing’s one-party rule — and to its new mission to promote the Chinese authoritarian model of development overseas.”
J. Michael Cole, writing in Taiwan Sentinel said of the Lee case, “The promotion of alternatives for China, from democracy to a multiparty system, is now a prosecutable crime, even if you are not a Chinese national bound by domestic laws. It also tells us that support for an independent Taiwan can now also land one in a legal nightmare in China, a threat that is made all the more salient due to the willingness of many of China’s partners worldwide to detain, and ‘repatriate’ to China, critics of the CCP.”