The organiser of Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil may soon be ousted from the Companies Registry, the security minister warned on Friday. The government notice came as leaders of the 32-year-old group were remanded in custody over national security law charges.

In a letter to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China vice-chair Chow Hang-tung on Friday, Secretary for Security Chris Tang said he would ask the Chief Executive in Council to exercise their power to strike off the group in accordance with the Companies (Winding Up and Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance.

Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Square Massacre vigil, 2019. Photo: Todd R. Darling/HKFP.

The city’s leader Carrie Lam and her advisory panel are empowered to order the Registrar of Companies to remove entities from the registry. They may exercise such powers if they are satisfied that the company is liable to have its operation prohibited by the security minister. It also applies to firms that are likely to have their registration under the Societies Ordinance cancelled.

Tang, who used to lead the city’s police force, said he received an initial recommendation for making such a move from the new police chief Raymond Siu. He asked Chow, who was among four Hong Kong alliance members arrested on Wednesday, to make a written representation to explain why the group should not be struck off. The alliance must file their explanation before 5 p.m. on September 24, though most of its leaders are behind bars.

“[I]f the ‘Hong Kong Alliance’ were a society in respect of which the Societies Ordinance applied, it would be necessary in the interests of national security, public safety and public order to prohibit its operation or continued operation under section 8 of that Ordinance,” Tang wrote, referring to the Societies Ordinance.

Latest crackdown

Tang’s warning marked the latest move in the crackdown on the organisation founded in 1989. It has remained defiant as one of the few pro-democracy groups still standing, whilst others disband under pressure from the Beijing-imposed legislation.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security Chris Tang (left) and Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu (right). File photo: Studio Incendo.

The embattled alliance, together with its chairman Lee Cheuk-yan and vice-chiefs Albert Ho and Chow, were charged with “incitement to subversion” on Friday.

Chow and four other core members of the alliance faced separate charges for refusing to comply with a police request for information in a national security probe. The five were all denied bail on Friday, while Lee and Ho are currently serving more than a year behind bars for offences linked to the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest.

The alliance’s premises, including its shuttered historical museum to the memory of the 1989 massacre  were raided by police on Thursday. Officers were seen taking away key exhibits and boxes of material. Police also froze around HK$2.2 million worth of their assets.

Chow Hang-tung. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The Tiananmen massacre occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. 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.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

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.