Hong Kong independence talk held amid protests

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Hong Kong : A pro-independence activist delivered his highly anticipated speech here on Tuesday amid government pressure and protests by pro-China groups.

Andy Chan, founder of the Hong Kong National Party, addressed a packed house at the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) and tens of thousands who were on a live Facebook feed, equating Hong Kong's position under China to its former colonial past, reports CNN.

"We were once colonised by the Brits, and now we are colonised by the Chinese. Where is our right to determine our own future?" said Chan, who also warned that Hong Kong could follow the path of Tibet and Xinjiang, where China has recently been accused of imprisoning hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims.

"By virtue of its historical, geographical and cultural difference, Hong Kong is a truly separate entity from the so-called Chinese nation," Chan said.

The FCC said it received "representations" from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in Hong Kong, though it did not elaborate on what was communicated.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she "regretted" the FCC's decision to host Chan, while her predecessor, CY Leung, repeatedly called for the event to be called off.

In a statement on Tuesday, China's MOFA called Chan's speech an "abuse of freedoms of press and speech", and accused the FCC of endorsing his views.

Protesters outside the club waved the Chinese flag and displayed banners warning of a "conspiracy to split Hong Kong from China" and calling for the implementation of an anti-sedition law.

Prior to his speech, Chan told CNN that he was surprised by the amount of pressure which had been brought to bear on the FCC, an elite institution which has had a presence in Hong Kong since the 1940s and frequently hosts politicians and dignitaries.

"We are not armed, we have never advocated for violence, we have never acted violently," he said.

Chan has largely operated on the periphery of Hong Kong politics since becoming an activist during the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.

In 2016, he founded the Hong Kong National Party, which advocates for the city's independence from China and has a few dozen members.