Tiananmen vigil group leaders arrested in Hong Kong raids

Police had demanded the group hand over information on finances, supporters as part of a national security investigation.

Hong Kong Alliance Vice Chairwoman Chow Hang-tung inside a vehicle after being detained in Hong Kong [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

At least four senior members of the group that organises Hong Kong’s annual vigil to remember the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown were arrested after a series of raids by police.

Chow Hang-tung, the vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (Hong Kong Alliance), was taken away from her office at about 8am (00:00 GMT) on Wednesday, the South China Morning Post reported. Chow, a lawyer, had been due in court where she is representing one of 47 defendants in a national security trial over democrats’ decision to hold a primary to choose their candidates for Legislative Council elections that were later delayed.

Committee members Leung Kam-wai, Tang Ngok-kwan and Chan Dor-wai were also arrested, the paper said.

The four had broken the national security law by refusing to provide information demanded for an investigation, an unnamed police source told the paper.

Police last month accused the Alliance of alleged ‘collusion with foreign powers’, demanding the group hand over details of its membership and finances.

On Tuesday, the deadline set by police to provide the information, the group announced that it would not be doing so.

The police said failure to provide the information by the deadline could result in a 100,000 Hong Kong dollar fine ($12,860) and six months in jail.

People hold up their phones with the light on in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on June 4, 2021, after police closed the venue where Hong Kong people traditionally gather each year to mourn the victims of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 [File: Isaac Lawrence/AFP]

The group has organised the candlelit vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park every June since 1989, often drawing tens of thousands of people. The gathering has been banned for the past two years with authorities blaming the coronavirus pandemic.

“The crushing of prominent and beloved civil society groups has been total and swift: HK Professional Teachers’ Union, @chrf_hk (Civil Human Rights Front) @612Fund (612 Humanitarian Support Fund) and now @hka8964 (Hong Kong Alliance),” Samuel Chu, the founder and former managing director of the Hong Kong Democracy Council, wrote on Twitter. Chu is due to testify on the situation of Hong Kong’s civil society before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission on September 8.

China imposed the national security law on Hong Kong last June, punishing acts it deems secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with life sentences.

Dozens have been arrested since, many of them pro-democracy politicians and activists, while others have left the territory.

Source: Al Jazeera