China's attempt to block Andy Chan, leader of the tiny Hong Kong National party, from talking to the city's Foreign Correspondents' Club is the latest attack on free speech in the city. The FT's Ben Bland reports.
Filmed and produced by Tom Griggs. Additional footage by Nicolle Liu and Reuters
His critics have compared him to a Nazi, an ISIS terrorist, and a foreign agent trying to destroy China. But Hong Kong independence campaigner, Andy Chan, comes across more like a thoughtful activist than a violent revolutionary.
The most important thing for us is to preserve our own people. We want to protect our language, our culture, our traditional, our living style, and our values. Our ultimate goal is to put at home our people, and independence is just a means.
Authorities are so concerned about Chan's tiny Hong Kong national party that they want to ban it using a colonial law against triad gangs. Beijing also leaned on Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents Club to cancel a talk by Chan. Officials say that discussing separatism crosses a red line.
The club rejected the pressure, insisting that freedom of speech is vitally important to Hong Kong. Few Hong Kongers support independence, but many agree that freedom of speech and the rule of law are essential if the city is to maintain its unique character and not just become another city in China.
Democracy advocates fear that the move against China is part of a salami slicing approach to cut back the opposition in Hong Kong bit by bit.
But this time they can ban HKNP using the society ordinance. Next time they can use this ordinance to ban some other political parties or even community organisations, NGOs.
Many democracy activists say independence is impossible for Hong Kong. Chan argues that real democracy is just as unlikely under Chinese President, Xi Jinping's, authoritarian government. Chan wants to ignite the flame of national consciousness among Hong Kongers. But with the authorities desperate to extinguish his movement, he may not have much time.