Authorities in Hong Kong on Monday took an unprecedented step against separatist voices by banning a political party that advocates independence for the Chinese territory on national security grounds. John Lee, the territory's secretary for security, announced that the Hong Kong National Party will be prohibited from operation, the AP reports. Lee's announcement did not provide further details. But Hong Kong's security bureau had previously said in a letter to the National Party's leader, 27-year-old Andy Chan, that the party should be dissolved "in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others." Chan had no immediate comment.
That letter had cited a national security law that has not been invoked since 1997. The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing's growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover. Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials have warned separatist activity would not be tolerated. The perception that Beijing is reneging on its promise of semi-autonomy and eroding Hong Kong's free elections and freedom of speech is helping fuel a rising generation of young activists calling for greater autonomy, if not outright independence.
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