The organiser for Hong Kong’s annual June 4 vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Massacre has announced “preventative measures” to half the size of its standing committee members and terminate all staff in anticipation of possible law enforcement action.

pillar of shame 2021 Tiananmen Massacre HKU
Hong Kong Alliance’s Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung. File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Seven of the 14 members of its standing committee will step down, and all of its employees will be terminated by the end of the month, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China announced on Saturday.

“As part of Hong Kong’s civil society, [the Alliance] has been particularly affected by the increasingly severe and obvious political repression,” the group’s statement read. “However, even in the face of such difficulties and challenges, the Hong Kong Alliance will continue to persevere step by step.”

Tiananmen Massacre vigil Victoria Park 2018
Hong Kong Alliance leaders at the June 4 vigil in 2018. File Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

For months, the Alliance has faced attacks from the pro-establishment camp and state media who have urged the city’s authorities to ban the group. A senior Beijing official on Hong Kong affairs said in June that those using the group’s trademark slogan “end one-party rule” are enemies of the state, while a pro-Beijing businessman said the group would have to either disband or be shut down by authorities.

Meanwhile, several members of the group’s leadership were jailed over banned protests in 2019. Last month, its vice-chair, Chow Hang-tung, was taken into custody after police accused her of publicising banned protests.

Individuals who will leave the Hong Kong Alliance include activists Richard Tsoi, social workers Mak Hoi-wah and Lun Chi-wai, ex-district councillor Leung Kwok-wah and Tsuen Wan District Councillor Chiu Yan-loy.

Chow Hang-tung
Chow Hang-tung. Photo: Ocean Tham/HKFP.

The remaining seven members include its chair Lee Cheuk-yan, vice-chair Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung. All three are in custody: Chow was denied bail last week after she was remanded in custody over alleged “incitement”  in connection with this year’s banned Tiananmen vigil while Lee and Ho are serving an 18-month sentence over charges over a banned National Day protest on October 1, 2019.

The Tiananmen crackdown occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters in Beijing.

The Alliance’s standing committee had 20 members prior to the restructuring.

All of its office staff will also be dismissed and receive compensation above legal requirements, the group said, adding that “every effort should be made to ensure the safety of our staff.”

The Alliance’s interim spokesperson and district councillor Leung Kam-wai said the group had not changed its principals and goals and remains hopeful that it could host June 4 candlelight mass vigils in the future, RTHK reported. Meanwhile the group is also seeking legal advice on the future of the June 4 museum, which has closed since government officials said it violated public entertainment licensing requirements last month.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.