FCC should not become platform for separatism

Updated: 2018-08-07 06:25

(HK Edition)

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Tony Kwok explains why an invitation by the journalist group to allow the founder of HKNP to give a luncheon talk is wrong

On the 20th anniversary celebration of Hong Kong's return to China on July 1 last year, President Xi Jinping categorically stated in his speech, "Any attempt to endanger China's sovereignty...is an act that crosses the red line, and is absolutely impermissible in Hong Kong."

All members of the Foreign Correspondents' Club should be well aware of the above statement. Hence, the invitation by FCC to the founder of the "Hong Kong National Party" to give a luncheon talk on Aug 14 at its government-leased premises is clearly a deliberate challenge, if not an act of contempt, against Xi's stated red line.

FCC should not become platform for separatism

Essentially a media hub, the FCC should know more than most ordinary citizens that the HKNP is set up with the sole purpose of turning Hong Kong into an independent republic and has vowed it will use whatever effective means, including violence, to realize its objective. The political group is facing a possible government ban under the Society Ordinance. In the process, the police have provided 300 pages of evidence of the party's separatist activities in the past years. Under these circumstances, the motive for the FCC to provide a public platform for the party founder to advocate its illegal separatist objectives is most concerning, particularly at a time when China and the United States are at loggerheads over their worsening trade dispute. One can't help wonder if a foreign power might be behind the invitation to cause trouble and embarrass China and to provide ammunition to Western media critics.

The FCC argued that this is a case of freedom of speech and the press and that they do not necessarily support their featured speakers. But they should also know that such freedom is not limitless but subject to legitimate constraints, and national security is one of them. The pretext of freedom of speech cannot be applicable in this case. If this is allowed, it would set a dangerous precedent and any organization can in future even invite leaders of the separatist groups from Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan and even the terrorist group ISIS to come to Hong Kong to advocate their separatism and terrorism agenda on the pretext of freedom of speech. This is irrational and unacceptable.

What is the FCC anyway? It is supposed to be just a meeting place and social club for international members of the media. But in recent years, it seems to have turned into a political organization, frequently using its luncheon forum as a political platform for anti-China activities. Their guests of honor include the inveterate China critic former governor Chris Patten and illegal "Occupy Central" organizer Benny Tai Yiu-ting.

As soon as the news of the invitation went out, a representative of the central government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong approached FCC to persuade them to call off the talk, but this has fallen on deaf ears. Thereupon,the Office of the Commissioner of the MFA in Hong Kong issued a tough statement: "We resolutely oppose any external forces providing a platform for the independence forces to spread their absurd ideas".This is a very serious accusation that should not be taken lightly.

If FCC decided to ignore the advice of the MFA, it is high time for the SAR government to intervene. The FCC is now occupying a prestigious historical building in Ice House Street, the Old Dairy Farm Building right at the heart of Central, on a lease from the government. Although it is suggested that the rent is based on market values, the fact that there was no open auction or tender would suggest that they were given highly preferential terms at the expense of the taxpayers. If there is now a strong voice to take over the Fanling golf course on public interest, there is surely greater justification for the government to repossess the Dairy Farm building from FCC based on public and national interest.

The FCC should be warned that such political activities at the premises may be regarded as a breach of conditions of the lease and the agreement may be terminated. At the very least, they should be warned that the lease would not be renewed upon its expiry. I believe it would be a most short-sighted decision if the FCC were to proceed with the lunch talk.

Just like combating corruption, dangerous drugs and terrorism, the only chance of success is to adopt a strict zero tolerance approach. The same should apply in combatting separatism and FCC should not be allowed to test the imposed red line.

(HK Edition 08/07/2018 page8)