HONG KONG — A Hong Kong independence activist is due to speak on Tuesday at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) despite pressure from Chinese officials to cancel the event.
The invitation to Andy Chan, a founder of the Hong Kong National Party, drew strong criticism this month from China’s Foreign Ministry and a former leader of the ex-British colony.
The FCC, which has hosted public figures and newsmakers since it was founded in 1943, said it would press ahead with the luncheon speech.
A number of Reuters journalists are FCC members.
Chan’s speech is titled “A politically incorrect guide to Hong Kong under Chinese rule,” according to an FCC flyer.
“I will persist with my principles,” Chan, 27, told Reuters. He said up to three people had been following him around the city in the past week. He said he had confronted some of them but could not determine their identity.
“I’m worried that someone may interfere or try to stop me from speaking,” he said.
Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, states that the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, is an “inalienable” part of China.
Four groups have sought police permission to protest outside the club, including the Defend Hong Kong Campaign, which planned to condemn the FCC for “promoting Hong Kong independence,” said a notice posted on the Hong Kong police website.
“The police will deploy appropriate manpower in accordance with the actual situation,” a police spokesman told Reuters in an email.
China’s Foreign Ministry, which has an office in Hong Kong, this month urged the club to cancel the event.
Leung Chun-ying, a former Hong Kong chief executive who is now vice chairman of a leading advisory body to China’s parliament, this month criticized the FCC on Facebook for hosting a “secessionist.”
He said the club paid “token rent” to the government for its century-old heritage building in the central business district – comments that stoked concerns among some members about the FCC’s future.
Reuters emailed Leung for comment but there was no immediate response.
In an Aug. 6 statement, the FCC said: “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.”
Hong Kong operates under a “one country, two systems” agreement that promises it a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in China.
Democracy advocates, however, have bristled against China’s perceived attempts to tighten control over the city and to limit its freedoms and democratic reforms.