Police say that the Hong Kong church behind the “Safeguard Our Generation” campaign, which supported protesters last year, is now under investigation for fraud and money laundering. Tuesday night raids on two premises belonging to the church – as well as homeless shelters it runs – came after their HSBC bank accounts were frozen on Monday.
The police arrested two people on Tuesday – a 37-year-old staffer, and a 24-year-old former director of the Good Neighbour North District Church. They have also ordered the arrest of the church’s pastor, Roy Chan, and his wife.
The church stands accused of hiding around HK$18 million of donations received from crowdfunding campaigns, Acting Senior Superintendent of Financial Investigation of the Narcotics Bureau Chow Cheung-yau said on Tuesday.
Chow said a police investigation showed that the church received HK$27 million in the period between June 2019 and September 2020 – more than the church’s online declaration of HK$8.9 million.
He also said that some expenses in their accounts did not match the declared purpose of the campaigns: “The police suspect that someone is scamming citizens for their donations in the name of religion, of helping young people… and have deliberately hid the actual amount crowdfunded,” said Chow.
“Safeguard Our Generation” are a group of volunteers who attempted to de-escalate violent clashes between protesters and police during last year’s anti-extradition bill protests. The church also runs hostels for homeless people, providing 30 free places in three districts.
The church’s Fanling and Kwun Tong premises, as well as three homeless shelters, were searched by the police earlier on Tuesday. Lau Ka-tung, social worker and a staffer at the church, was also brought in to assist the police investigation.
The police sent a letter to the church’s bank on Monday requesting the freezing of five accounts that handled the funds.
Pastor Roy Chan said in a video that the freezing of the bank accounts was an act of political revenge: “Currently, HSBC has become a tool for the regime’s attempt to take political revenge via economic oppression,” said Chan.
Chan and his family are now in the UK. He said that his family of five are “living with an empty wallet” because of the banking freeze.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam sought to give assurances during a Tuesday press conference when asked if bank freezes could undermine the city’s reputation: “I can assure you that Hong Kong’s monetary and financial systems are as robust as ever and the police will fully investigate each case, and the case will be independently considered by the prosecution authority…” Lam said.
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