Hong Kong independence activist Andy Chan denounced China as a modern-day colonial power in a speech before a group of foreign journalists that Beijing wanted cancelled.
Andy Chan, a founder of the Hong Kong National Party, told members of the Foreign Correspondents Club that Hong Kong, as a nation, "is quickly being annexed and destroyed by China."
Chan is one of many young activists who have openly criticized the mainland's tightening grip on the former British colony, which was granted a huge level of autonomy under the "one country, two systems" formula established when Beijing regained control of the territory in 1997. The activists are split between seeking full independence for Hong Kong on one side, with others calling for even greater autonomy.
A Hong Kong government spokesman earlier Tuesday said it would be "totally inappropriate and unacceptable" for someone to "promote and advocate" for the city's independence, as well as for any group to "provide a public platform to espouse such views."
But the FCC defended its decision to host Chan on Monday, saying "it is vitally important to allow people to speak and debate freely, even if one does not agree with their particular views."
Dozens of people demonstrated outside the FCC clubhouse during Chan's speech, split between pro-Beijing advocates and a mix of pro-democracy and pro-independence activists.
Authorities in Hong Kong have taken initial steps to outlaw the Hong Kong National Party, the first time the government has taken such an action since the 1997 handover.