A fund set up to help people arrested during Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy protests has announced it will stop accepting donations immediately, after police said they were investigating whether its operations broke the national security law.

The 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which had earlier announced it would shut down by the end of October, said on Monday it had been informed by the Alliance for True Democracy – the company that holds the fund – that it would no longer process requests for payment.

612 Fund
Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

In response, the fund decided to call a halt to one-off donations made online, while payment from monthly donors will also be put on hold. The group said it will seek legal advice to see whether any refunds can be made.

The organisation – founded in June 2019 at the start of the months-long anti-extradition bill protests – said it would pause all applications currently being processed because no payments could be made. It thanked people who had been arrested and imprisoned, as well as their families, for “trusting” the fund.

“We are deeply conscious of the impact of this turn of events on current applications, and will do our best to look for all possible solutions and relief,” the 612 Fund wrote on Facebook, adding that it had a bank balance of more than HK$7.2 million as of Monday.

The 612 Fund announced last month that it would stop operating on October 31, after the directors of the Alliance for True Democracy said the alliance would soon close down. The fund had been accepting donations via the alliance’s bank accounts.

612 fund
612 Humanitarian Relief Fund trustees Cardinal Joseph Zen, Margaret Ng, Hui Po-Keung and Denise Ho. Photo: Screenshot via Facebook.

Police served a court order on the fund on September 1, requesting information for a probe into potential violations of the Beijing-imposed national security law and other local laws. The force did not specify any alleged offence.

Administered by five trustees, the fund has aided thousands of protesters by giving legal assistance, funds for psychological counselling and medical treatment and emergency relief. Its trustees include barrister Margaret Ng, Cardinal Joseph Zen, singer-songwriter Denise Ho, jailed former lawmaker Cyd Ho and cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung.

The fund is the latest in a series of civil society organisations to shut down in response to the security law, which activists, foreign governments and rights groups say is stifling freedoms in the city. The government hails the legislation has restored stability and law and order.

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Kelly Ho

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.