Hong Kong police have served a court order requesting information from a group that provides financial assistance to arrested protesters, citing potential national security law violations.
Police said on Wednesday evening that they are conducting a probe into the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund on suspicion of violating the Beijing-imposed security law and other local legislation.
The force said they obtained a High Court order to demand the fund – which announced it will halt operations by the end of next month – to hand over information, in accordance with Article 43 schedule 7 of the national security law.
Without specifying any offence, police warned that breaching the national security law was an “extremely serious” crime.
“[A]nyone who incites, assists in, abets or provides pecuniary or other financial assistance to sponsor others to commit crimes endangering national security may be in violation of the law. Do not defy the law,” a police statement read.
According to local media, police asked the humanitarian fund to provide information on its operations and financial transactions, including its crowdfunding activities, bank account details, donor information and information on the fund recipients.
The force will look into whether the fund had “colluded with external forces,” and whether the organisation was involved in any unlawful behaviour, media reports stated.
Last month, the trustees of the 612 fund announced that the group will stop operating on October 31, because the limited company that holds the fund would soon be defunct. Without the Alliance’s bank accounts, the fund could not continue to operate, trustee and barrister Margaret Ng had said.
Founded in June 2019, the organisation supported thousands of protesters by providing legal assistance, funds for psychological counselling and medical treatment and emergency monetary relief.
Aside from Ng, the fund trustees included prominent pro-democracy figures Cardinal Joseph Zen, singer-songwriter Denise Ho, jailed former lawmaker Cyd Ho and cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung.
As of May 31 this year, the fund had 2,554 monthly donors, who contributed over HK$1 million to the group each month. Its total income stood at close to HK$237 million, while its total expenditure was around HK$232 million, its annual report stated.
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.
Update 01.09.21: This article was updated at 8.45 p.m. on September 1, 2021, following a police statement.