Details of the government’s lease of the current premises of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club were released this week, amid a freedom of speech scandal engulfing the institution.
Under the terms of the lease, the Club can be asked to vacate its premises with three months’ notice if the building is “not being used to the satisfaction” of the government, or if the Club does anything that could be seen by the authorities as “a danger, a nuisance or annoyance.”
As of yesterday, the local government in Hong Kong has not asked the Club to vacate the premises.
The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club came under scrutiny last month after it agreed to host a talk by HKSAR separatist Andy Chan, despite protests from both Beijing and the local government.
Chan, the leader of the Hong Kong National Party, advocates for independence for the territory of 7.4 million. He was controversially banned from standing for election in Hong Kong after the local government determined that his stance ran contrary to provisions in the Basic Law concerning Chinese sovereignty.
Despite government pressure, the Club refused to cancel Chan’s speech, attracting both praise and condemnation from the public.
After the speech, HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam weighed in on the matter, saying the feelings of both the Hong Kong and Chinese people had been bruised by the suggestion of independence and that the Club had violated a moral red line.
The lease for the building, which is located on Lower Albert Road in Central, was signed in December 2015 and would have lasted until 2023, providing its terms were not breached. The club pays HKD580,000 per month to rent the space.
According to the South China Morning Post, under the terms of the lease, the government would not have to pay any compensation to the Club in the event of the lease termination.