Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Massacre Museum was raided by national security police on Thursday morning, according to organisers.

Police officers from the National Security Department take away items after raiding the June 4 museum dedicated to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, in Hong Kong on September 9, 2021. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP.

The June 4th Museum was shut down in early June, three days after it was reopened with a new exhibition. Organisers – the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China – said the decision was made “to ensure the safety of staff and visitors.”

Police officers from the National Security Department take away an exhibit featuring photos of the annual candlelight vigil, after raiding the June 4 museum dedicated to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP.

On Wednesday, police arrested the Alliance’s leaders after they refused to hand over information as part of a national security probe.

Police officers from the National Security Department take away items after raiding the June 4 museum dedicated to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, in Hong Kong on September 9, 2021. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP.

Vice-chair Chow Hang-tung and committee members Simon Leung, Tang Ngok-kwan and Chan To-wai were detained at separate police stations.

The force have alleged that the group had been working as an agent for foreigners, a potential violation of the Beijing-imposed security law.

Police officers (black vests) from the National Security Department help load boxes onto a truck after taking away items from the June 4 museum dedicated to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP.

The Alliance risked a HK$100,000 fine and six months behind bars after they declined to cooperate, saying the force had no basis for their claims.

Alliance members Sean Tang Ngok-Kwan, Chow Hang-tung and Simon Leung Kam-wai. Photo: Hong Kong Alliance via Facebook.

A Security Bureau spokesperson said any law enforcement operations were “based on evidence” and “strictly according to the law.”

June 4th Museum. Photo: Kevin Cheng/United Social Press.

Senior Superintendent Steve Li was present during Thursday’s raid, as officers took away boxes of material, according to Citizen News.

Police officers from the National Security Department take away exhibits featuring images of former Chinese Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang (R) and pro-democracy activist Szeto Wah (L), after raiding the June 4 museum dedicated to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP.

It took place as 12 activists appeared in court pleading guilty to participating and inciting others to participate in the 2020 Tiananmen Massacre vigil in Victoria Park, which the authorities banned citing Covid-19 restrictions.

HKFP has reached out to the police for comment.

Embattled group

In July, the Tiananmen Massacre museum’s organisers were fined HK$8,000 after pleading guilty to violating the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance.

See also: In full: ‘Speaking truth to power’: Tiananmen Massacre Alliance vice-chair Albert Ho’s mitigation plea

Richard Tsoi (2nd L), a former standing committee member of Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, holds a CCTV camera after police officers from the National Security Department raided the June 4 museum dedicated to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP.

The embattled group admitted to operating the June 4th museum without a licence for places of public entertainment.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang had vowed “swift and efficient action” against the Alliance after its denial of a police data request.

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.

Photo: Citizen News.

The group has been under increasing pressure from officials and pro-Beijing voices in recent months, which have called on the group to disband or face legal consequences under the security law.

June 4th Museum. Photo: Kevin Cheng/United Social Press.

Other key Alliance leaders Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho have been jailed on charges relating to the 2019 protests and unrest, while seven members of its permanent committee resigned in early July. The group has announced it will hold a meeting at the end of the month to vote on whether to disband.

Speaking about the Alliance on Tuesday, the city’s leader Carrie Lam denied that recent pressure on the group represented a crackdown on civil society, saying that a group which did not obey the law and the police could not be considered a part of civil society.

Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.