Beijing “did not intervene” in the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club’s plan to host a talk by separatist party leader Andy Chan Ho-tin, pro-establishment camp heavyweight Maria Tam Wai-chu said on Sunday.
Tam, now the vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee, brushed aside accusations that Beijing was undermining freedom of speech in the city, and also said she supported the decision by Leung Ka-wing, the head of RTHK, the city’s public broadcaster, not to live stream Chan’s speech on Tuesday.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not intervene with anything, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented,” Tam said.
FCC vice-president Victor Mallet had earlier said the ministry’s office in Hong Kong had contacted the club regarding Chan’s talk.
In a statement on August 3, Beijing’s Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “resolutely opposes any external forces providing a platform for the independence forces to spread their absurd ideas”.
Tam said: “I totally support [the ministry], because there is zero tolerance for Hong Kong independence.
“The FCC does not need to provide a platform to advocate for independence to prove the city has freedom of speech.”
Citizens hoping to voice criticism on a particular matter or person can simply call radio programmes, she said.
Tam, a former deputy of the National People’s Congress, backed the decision by Leung, the director of broadcasting at RTHK, and said streaming Chan’s “monologue” may give the impression the broadcaster sympathised with his pro-independence ideals.
The FCC has said it will go ahead with Chan’s talk, titled “Hong Kong Nationalism: A Politically Incorrect Guide to Hong Kong under Chinese Rule”.
The event, which will include a question-and-answer session, will be live streamed on Facebook.
Chan’s group, the Hong Kong National Party, has been embroiled in a series of debates after the police recommended banning it under the Societies Ordinance last month.
It would be the first time a political group was banned since Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Chan’s party has been asked to submit a written reply to Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu by September 4 to argue against the ban.