The organiser of Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil has refused to comply with a national security police request to hand over information, and has said that the force has no legal basis to make such requests.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China handed in a rebuttal letter to the police at the force’s headquarters on Tuesday, rejecting their accusations that they were “foreign agents.”

Members of the Alliance outside the police headquarters on September 7, 2021. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Members of the group’s standing committee 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.

The Alliance said in an open letter signed by five standing committee members that the Commissioner of Police failed to provide any explanation as to why he had “reasonable grounds” to believe that the group were a “foreign agent.”

The group also said that the police chief did not explain how the letter to request information from the Alliance was necessary for preventing and investigating crimes endangering national security, the nature of the crime being investigated, as well as its relationship with the data requested.

“The three points above violate the principles of natural justice. To sum up, the alliance believes the issuance of the letter has no legal basis, and therefore we will not provide any information requested ,” the open letter read.

Chow Hang-tung (left) handing an open letter to the police on September 7, 2021. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

When asked what she would like to tell Hong Kong people in case she was arrested for refusing to comply with the police request, vice-chairperson of the Alliance Chow Hang-tung said before heading into the police headquarters that Hongkongers “should continue resisting.”

“Do not succumb to unreasonable power, do not succumb to life where you have to lie and bow down every day,” said Chow. “Live in your own space whenever possible, live for following your own conscience.”

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.

Non-compliance risk

After handing in the letter to the police, Chow said on Tuesday that she was warned again about the legal consequences of non-compliance.

In a statement released after the Alliance’s meeting with the police, the force “strongly condemned” the group’s behaviour, and said that those who fail to hand in information on time might be liable to a HK$100,000 fine and six months in prison.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang said on Tuesday that the definition of “foreign agents” was clear, and that – because he could not rule out future prosecutions – he could not disclose more details.

Judicial review

Tsui Hon-kwong, one of the directors of the Alliance, said on Tuesday that he filed an application in his personal capacity for leave to apply for judicial review against the Commissioner of Police.

Tsui sought to ask the court to declare that the Alliance was not a foreign agent, and restrain the police commissioner “from taking any further step to prosecute the Alliance or the recipients of the letter” until after there was a result on his application.

Judicial reviews are considered by the Court of First Instance and examine the decision-making processes of administrative bodies. Issues under review must be shown to affect the wider public interest.

Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.