A Hong Kong pro-independence activist has decried Beijing’s rule over the city as modern-day colonialism in a speech to a foreign journalists’ association that defied China’s demand that the event be cancelled.
Beijing swiftly criticised the talk, saying freedom of speech in Hong Kong did not extend to discussion of independence, which it said was a threat to national security. “We express our indignation and condemn it,” the Chinese foreign ministry office in Hong Kong said.
The government’s demand raised questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomyand freedom of speech as part of the 1997 handover. Xi Jinping, China’s president, and other officials have warned separatist activity will not be tolerated.
Small groups of pro-Beijing and pro-democracy protesters gathered outside the Foreign Correspondents’ Club building in Hong Kong before and during the speech by Andy Chan of the Hong Kong National party. Some pro-Beijing protesters carried banners saying “Hong Kong independence is poisonous”.