China’s heavy hand gives HKNP’s Andy Chan Ho-tin a global platform

Banning of “separatist” group is part of a wider agenda to attack democratic rights

Dikang, Socialist Action

With his speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) Andy Chan Ho-tin emerged as an attention seeker who just won the ‘jackpot’.

The government’s imminent ban on the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), of which Chan is the ‘convener’, has given him a much bigger stage to stand on. Beijing, which is the prime mover behind the ban, specialises in the absurd. Thus, in pursuit of its “zero tolerance” doctrine against “separatism” it is about to outlaw a phantom!

There is no proof that the HKNP has more than one member, Chan. The police have produced a fat dossier on the HKNP, to justify the ban, but in 700-plus pages there is no evidence of any other members.

Virtually a nobody only weeks ago, the proposed ban has given Chan the biggest breakthrough of his short career. An English language Google search for ‘HKNP’ now gives 97 million results! The FCC’s meeting with Chan received enormous media overseas exposure. This interest grew as pro-Beijing politicians issued threats and denunciations to try to get the meeting cancelled.

Empty platitudes

Compared to the furore over the FCC’s refusal to back down, Chan’s speech was stale and largely meaningless. It offered not a single concrete proposal about how to resist the ban or organise the defence of democratic rights. Instead it was a sprinkling of right-wing racist and nationalist themes alongside some empty platitudes about “democracy” and “free speech”. HKNP-Chan has not contributed one iota to the democracy struggle.

The only forces Chan pointed toward to change things are the British right-wing government (!) and Donald Trump (!!). At this juncture, somebody in the audience should have interrupted him to ask, “Why?” and perhaps more pertinently, “When have those governments have ever supported democratic rights?”

Chan called on Donald Trump to escalate his trade war against China – and extend it to Hong Kong. Such statements – knowingly or not – only assist Beijing to discredit those who argue forindependence or self-determination.

At the FCC, Chan accused China of “national cleansing” in Hong Kong and also in Tibet and other regions. But then he himself clearly stands for the same policy in reverse, complaining of a “rapid influx of an incompatible culture” from China. The difference between Hong Kongers and mainlanders was “a matter of cultural values, and of civilization” he said.

These formulations are standard fare for far right and racist parties – such as Trump and the US alt-right, France’s National Front and Greece’s Golden Dawn. These forces use the same arguments against Muslims, Mexicans, refugees and Asians (including Hong Kongers and Chinese).

Like the far right in other countries, Chan blames Hong Kong’s problems on immigration – for driving down wages, creating a housing crisis and overburdening the hospitals. No! These problems are caused by the capitalists and their political representatives like Carrie Lam. The monopoly grip of a few property tycoons is what caused the housing crisis. If there were strong unions and the labour market was not controlled by greedy bosses, it would not be possible to exploit foreign labour to lower wages. Racists like Chan deliberately misdirect the public gaze, which helps the capitalist class to perpetrate these swindles.

Socialist Action opposes the government’s ban on the ‘phantom’ HKNP, which is designed to set a legal precedent to be used against other parties – it is also a conscious plan to create an excuse to push for Article 23 anti-subversion legislation. But we also oppose racism and far right attention seekers like Chan. Only a united working class movement, embracing all ethnicities and transcending borders, can offer a way out of the current crisis.