The bids for booths at next year’s Lunar New Year flower market from the group which organises the annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil in Hong Kong hit a snag on Tuesday, days after the group was attacked as “illegal” by a Beijing acdemic.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China successfully bid for three booths in the annual market in Victoria Park.

Lunar New Year Fair. File photo: GovHK.

However, Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, the vice-chairman of the Alliance, was then told by the Food and Environment Hygiene Department that more information was needed before the department could decide on the bids.

Tsoi was initially told to meet the department the next day but the FEHD later signed the contract with him on Tuesday afternoon.

According to Tsoi, the FEHD requested to see his previous record of running booths, but did not impose any additional terms in the contract. Tsoi said that he was the only bidder required to do this, and suspected that the FEHD had political motives for delaying the process.

Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Alliance, told HKFP by phone that they would not change their plan to spread their message through selling flowers.

‘We’ll stand our ground’

The incident came after the Alliance was branded as “illegal” earlier this week.

File photo: GovHK.

Tian Feilong, associate law professor at Beihang University, wrote in a column in Monday’s Commercial Daily that the Alliance was in breach of the Basic Law and the national security law.

Tian said the Alliance violated the new security law because it has long been “funded by and colluded with overseas pro-democracy organisations and foreign anti-China forces.”

He also described the Alliance’s five operational goals as an attempt at political subversion, and said its participation in previous protest movements breached the Public Order Ordinance and the Societies Ordinance.

The Alliance has for 31 years organised an annual vigil to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre of pro-democracy campaigners in Beijing. The organisation also founded the “June 4th Museum” in Mongkok to remember those killed by the military.

Hong Kong is the only place on Chinese soil which still remembers the massacre in a ceremony. The government this summer refused permission for a vigil, citing coronavirus restrictions, but the Alliance went ahead anyway and several people were arrested.

Stall of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. Photo: Facebook/Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

Lee said Tian’s article was an obvious attempt to create a chilling effect to stop Hong Kong people from speaking out.

“We know that they want to intimidate us and therefore we have ever more reasons to stand our ground on the Alliance’s five operational goals,” Lee told HKFP.

“They [authorities] don’t need any evidence under the national security law, they can just frame any intention or advocacy that they don’t like as illegal; even just chanting a slogan can be seen as in violation of the law. The line has been blurred between what’s legal and what’s not, because they have imported the Chinese government’s way of thinking into Hong Kong.”

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.