HONG KONG – Three leaders of the group, which organized an annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong, were held in custody Friday after being charged with subversion under the national security law of China’s territory as authorities crack down on dissenting opinions.
Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, and Vice-Chairs Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung were charged with inciting undermining state power under the national security law. The alliance itself has also been charged with subversion.
Chow was refused bail days after she was arrested for failing to comply with a police request for information. Lee and Ho are currently serving prison terms for their roles in unauthorized meetings in 2019. The next trial on the case is scheduled for October 28th.
For the past 30 years, the Alliance has organized the candlelight vigil that gathered tens of thousands of people in the city’s Victoria Park to commemorate China’s bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations around Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 1989 .
It was the only large-scale public commemoration of the crackdown on Chinese soil, with crowds lighting candles and singing songs to support democracy.
Police have banned the vigil for the past two years, citing the coronavirus pandemic, though critics believe the ban was part of cracking down on dissenting opinions among Beijing and Hong Kong leaders after months of protests against the government in the area in 2019 is.
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The authorities have now labeled the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of China’s Patriotic Democratic Movements a foreign agent and sought details of the group’s operations and finances in connection with its alleged activities and links with democratic groups overseas.
Chow and four other alliance leaders had refused to comply with the police’s request for information and were arrested this week for non-compliance.
Police confiscated computers, documents and promotional materials on Thursday from the museum, which was closed on June 4 and operated by the Alliance to commemorate the suppression of the Tiananmen.
Police said Allianz assets worth 2.2 million Hong Kong dollars ($ 280,000) have also been frozen.
A Facebook post was posted on Chow’s account on Friday urging Hong Kong residents “not to accept their fate”.
“Perhaps the other party will destroy the ‘obstacle’ that we are, but resistance is about gaining strength in exchange for some time and space to allow more ‘obstacles’ to grow,” it says in the post.
“As long as we still have the will to fight, we have not lost.”
Last year, dozens of pro-democracy activists were arrested, others left the city abroad for exile, and the city changed electoral laws to increase the number of seats for pro-Beijing MPs while increasing the number of directly elected MPs to reduce.
The national security law, which Beijing imposed on the city last June, criminalizes subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion to meddle in the city’s affairs.
Critics say the national security law, which arrested more than 100 people, reverses the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Hong Kong was promised that it could not maintain freedoms such as freedom of expression and assembly on the mainland for 50 years.