The organisers of Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil said on Sunday that they will not comply with the city’s national security police’s request to hand in information.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China also denied a police accusation that they were backed by “foreign agents,” and said that – if the Alliance was any kind of agent – they were an agent of “Hong Kong citizens’ conscience.”
Barrister Chow Hang-tung, vice-chair of the Alliance, said that the police request had set a “bad precedent” of abusing national security powers by “labelling just [about] any civil organisation as a foreign agent,” and then using Article 43 of the Beijing-imposed national security law to demand information.
Chow and other standing committee members of the Alliance received letters from the police national security unit on August 25, requiring them to provide information under the national security legislation, as the Commissioner of Police had “sufficient reasons” to believe that the group was an agent acting on behalf of foreign entities.
“When you look at that letter, there is no single reason or [any] evidence saying why they can accuse us of being a foreign agent,” said Chow. “There is no single explanation saying what kind of so-called national security offence are they investigating that require[s] all this information that they demand of us.”
The barrister said that the letter was a police “abuse of power,” and was “illegal,” and the least the Alliance could do was to “refuse cooperation or indulging” these behaviours.
“The monster that is power is raised by everyone’s cooperation – on the other hand, it means that each of us have power to limit or take away these powers, just as the National Security Department cannot order us to hand over information.”
Chow also slammed the force as attempting to spread fear within civil society by ordering organisations to submit large amounts of information.
“We hereby show that your [police] intimidation stops here, we won’t help you spread fear,” said the vice chairperson.
In response to the Alliance’s refusal to comply with their request, the police said that “follow up actions will be taken in accordance with the law should any person or organisation fail to follow the requirement.”
The police said that non-compliance of the request could result in a HK$100,000 fine and six-months imprisonment. Meanwhile, anyone providing false, incorrect, or incomplete information is liable to a fine of HK$100,000 and imprisonment of two years.
In a press statement released on Sunday, the Security Bureau “gave its solemn warning” to the Alliance, saying that law enforcement actions “are based on evidence.”
“To avoid bearing the legal risk, the organisation concerned should immediately turn back before it is too late,” a spokesperson for the Security Bureau said.
The national security law criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure.
Founded in 1989, the Alliance has been the organiser of an annual vigil and other events commemorating victims of the Tiananmen Massacre. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing on June 4, 1989.
Following rumours that the alliance may disband after operating for over three decades, the group announced that they will hold a special, extraordinary general meeting on September 25 to decide on their potential disbandment.
The barrister said that anyone who hoped to continue the work of the Alliance might have to prepare for imprisonment, and the issue of how they could continue working in jail.
“Now that we have come to this step, the Alliance must consider whether we can continue our operations as a registered company in the future,” said Chow.
“That’s why we think that the survival of the Alliance should not be a closed-door discussion, we hope that our members and the public can take part in the discussion about the pros and cons of our disbandment, and what is the best way to continue the mission of the Alliance.”
Members of the Alliance, including Chow, will appear in court in the coming months on charges linked to the two banned vigils in last year and this year. The police banned the vigils citing Covid-19 health concerns.
Leaders of the group Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho have been jailed over their roles in 2019 protests.