Heeding China’s call, Hong Kong tightens grip on dissent
HONG KONG: As Hong Kong’s government hews closer to Beijing, officials are taking a tough line on perceived national security threats, even deploying an elite police unit for political monitoring and surveillance - a sharp escalation in rhetoric and action.
In just the last few months, the special administrative region has banned the Hong Kong National Party, which espouses separation from China, and barred some activists from standing in local elections.
The Education Bureau sent all secondary schools in the Special Administrative Region letters on September 24 saying they must prohibit “the penetration” of the National Party or risk prosecution.
And this month, Hong Kong refused to renew the work visa of Victor Mallet, Asia news editor for the British-based Financial Times newspaper, after he hosted a speech by an independence activist.
“We can see them (the government) being much more assertive in using these powers and in shaping their policy decisions to reflect the national interests,” said Professor Simon Young of the University of Hong Kong’s law school, saying the courts may be a last line of defence against government overreach.
Serving and retired police officers, lawyers and lawmakers describe intensifying political operations by the police force’s Security Wing, an elite unit that officially handles sensitive tasks including VIP protection and counter-terrorism investigations. Sources familiar with the wing’s work say it led surveillance and monitoring operations against the National Party and more than a dozen other groups.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association recently described the prospect of tougher national security enforcement as “a sword dangled above the heads” of reporters.
In his role as first vice president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong, Mallet in August hosted Andy Chan, head of the National Party. The party was banned last month as an “imminent threat to national security” as the government invoked littleknown clauses of a law regulating private groups and societies.
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PROTEST: Disqualified pro-democracy lawmaker Lau Siu-lai attends a protest, after her bid to stand in a by-election had been rejected, outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong.