Hong Kong police have demanded information from the organiser of the city’s annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil, citing the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Standing committee members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China received letters from the police national security unit on Wednesday morning, the group’s vice-chairwoman Chow Hang-tung told HKFP. She said the letters required them to provide information under paragraph 5 of Article 43 of the sweeping security legislation.

Chow Hang-tung
Chow Hang-tung. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Police officers visited the homes of the organisation’s committee members at around 6 a.m. on Wednesday to serve the letters, according to 36-year-old Chow. The activist, who is also a barrister, said she was not home at the time and later met the police in her office at around 9 a.m. instead.

Another subcommittee member, Simon Leung, confirmed with HKFP that he had received the letter. However, Chow said she could not reveal details of its contents: “At the moment, we can’t tell people yet. We have to hold a meeting first to decide.”

The provision Chow said police had cited stipulated that, when handling cases concerning national security offences, the police national security department may require a political organisation of a foreign country – or outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau – to provide information. The force may also require “foreign agents” to hand over information.

1989 Tiananmen Massacre vigil
The 2017 Tiananmen Massacre vigil in Victoria Park. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

HKFP has reached out to police for confirmation and comment.

Disbandment rumours

The letters from the national security police came amid rumours that the alliance may disband after operating for over three decades. The pro-democracy group is known for organising an annual June 4 candlelight vigil in Hong Kong to commemorate Beijing’s bloody crackdown on a student-led movement in 1989. But police have banned the rally for two years in a row, citing Covid-19 fears.

Victoria Park Tiananmen Massacre June 4 2021
Victoria Park was empty on June 4 for the first time in 32 years in 2021. Photo: Jimmy Lam/HKFP.

The embattled group laid off all of its staff last month to “ensure their safety,” as it faced a barrage of criticism from Chinese state-owned media. Alliance leaders Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho have been jailed over their roles in 2019 protests. The vice-chair, Chow, was released on bail earlier this month, after she was charged with inciting others to take part in a prohibited rally on the 32nd anniversary of the 1989 crackdown.

On Tuesday, Ming Pao cited sources as saying the alliance’s subcommittee passed a resolution to break up the organisation, but the decision has to be approved by member groups in a general meeting. In response, Chow told HKFP on Wednesday that the alliance had not called a general meeting.

“We don’t have any official announcement… we would not comment on the rumours that have been spreading outside,” she said.

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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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.