A pro-democracy alliance has vowed to defy what it calls a groundless order from Hong Kong’s national security police to hand over financial and operational information. It has a point.

Seen from a historical perspective, it could not be more ironic that the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China is officially suspected of acting as a “foreign agent,” a crime under the national security law.

June 4 Tiananmen Square Massacre Victoria Park 2021 candle cup
A person holds a candle in Causeway Bay on June 4, 2021. Photo: Jimmy Lam/HKFP.

Ending months of speculation that the Alliance would become part of a crackdown on pro-democracy groups, police wrote to the group last month to demand information by September 7.

They cited paragraph 5 of Article 43 of the sweeping legislation, which says the police chief may demand such information if they “reasonably believe” that it is necessary for the prevention and investigation of an offence endangering national security.

Yet the authorities did not explain why the Commissioner of Police “reasonably believes” the Alliance has committed acts endangering national security.

At a Sunday press conference, the Alliance’s vice-chair Chow Hang-tung said: “If you must say that we are an agent of anything, we’re an agent of Hong Kong people’s conscience – not the agent of any national interest of any country.”

Chow Hang-tung
Chow Hang-tung. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

She accused the police of abusing their power, saying the information request was “clearly a fishing attempt to construct stories and conspiracies” against civil groups in order to invoke fear.

Founded in the heyday of the pro-democracy movement spearheaded by Beijing students in spring 1989, the Alliance was an umbrella body for a long list of Hong Kong social groups, most of which pulled out after signs of a crackdown surfaced. 

Inspired by the courage and persistence of students and civilians in Beijing and holding out hopes for a more democratic and open China in 1989, Hong Kong people from all walks of life took to the streets to support them. 

June 4 Tiananmen Square Massacre Victoria Park 2021 candle police warning led lights read - release all political prisoners
People hold candles in Causeway Bay near a street booth while police display warning flags. A LED light display that reads “Release all political prisoners.” Photo: Jimmy Lam/HKFP.

When People’s Liberation Army tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square and blood was shed on the night of June 4, Hong Kong people, including prominent pro-Beijing figures, united in condemnation of the bloody crackdown.

On every June 4 since then, people attended a candlelight vigil organised by the Alliance in Victoria Park commemorating the victims and calling for a change in the official verdict on the crackdown.

Volunteers collected donations and sold a raft of June 4-related items to raise funds for their work. An annual financial report was published in pamphlets circulated at the event.

As soon as the vigil ended, normally around 9.30 pm, participants joined volunteers in collecting litter from the football pitches.

Cynics ridiculed the vigil as a “ritual” with no meaning. As mainland-Hong Kong tensions grew and localist sentiment surged, the Alliance’s call for a democratic China was criticised as “leftard”, or unrealistic pro-China thinking. 

But for many supporters of the ill-fated pro-democracy movement spearheaded by the Alliance over the past three decades, the police accusations of “foreign agent” defy understanding and their own experience.

Tiananmen Massacre vigil in 2020
The Tiananmen Massacre vigil in 2020. Photo: Dominic Chiu/HKFP.

To claim that the tens of thousands who paid tribute to the June 4 victims were part of a plot by a “foreign agent” intended to endanger national security is an insult to their collective conscience. 

It distorts the history of a movement launched by Hong Kong people who identified with the nation and empathised with Beijing students. Their hopes for a democratic China kept lighting up Victoria Park every June 4 until the national security law came into force. 

It seems likely the Alliance will be taken to court for its refusal of the police order, if not to face formal charges of colluding with foreign forces. Whether it will be convicted is unclear. 

But the people have given their verdict in the name of the group: the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.

Support HKFP  |  Policies & Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps

HKFP is an impartial platform & does not necessarily share the views of opinion writers or advertisers. HKFP presents a diversity of views & regularly invites figures across the political spectrum to write for us. Press freedom is guaranteed under the Basic Law, security law, Bill of Rights and Chinese constitution. Opinion pieces aim to point out errors or defects in the government, law or policies, or aim to suggest ideas or alterations via legal means without an intention of hatred, discontent or hostility against the authorities or other communities.

Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp methods
YouTube video

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.

Success! You're on the list.
support hong kong free press generic

Chris Yeung is Chief Writer at CitizenNews, and the founder and editor of Voice of Hong Kong. He is a veteran journalist who formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues and is the former chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.