A Hong Kong group which provided support to prisoners is to disband. Wall-fare is the latest pro-democracy civil society group to dissolve in recent months, amid what critics have called a national security crackdown on dissent.
The group, founded by former pro-democracy lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun, provided support for detained pro-democracy activists by raising funds to provide daily necessities and providing emotional support through a coordinated a letter-writing scheme.
The disbandment comes after the city’s security chief claimed last week that prisoners were using privileges such as chocolates and hair clips to recruit forces to endanger national security. Earlier this month, an elite security task force was deployed at Hong Kong’s largest women’s prison to quash an 18-person protest.
The group, which was founded nine months ago, announced its disbandment on Facebook on Tuesday: “Today we announce we are officially closing. Even though we were eventually crushed, the time we have exchanged was also worth it. Sorry. We did our best, and our efforts themselves are Wall-fare’s story.”
It added that its scheme to raise funds for prisoner provisions was halted on Monday. The group will apply for deregistration under the Companies Ordinance.
Wall-fare was also the city’s main advocacy group for better prisoners’ rights. During a record heatwave this summer, it had launched a petition for prisons to implement better cooling measures for detainees . The petition gained over 100,000 signatories within 33 hours.
The group disbands as Hong Kong prisons sees an influx of detainees following the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest, and subsequent arrests under the national security law. The majority of national security arrestees have been denied bail.
The average daily remand population in Hong Kong’s detention centres reached a decade-long high last year, rising 37 per cent from 1,436 to 1 ,962 according to the Correctional Services Department’s annual report. The department has said it is expecting that figures will remain high and have “an upward trend.”
Protest-related and national security court cases are also piling up in the city’s courts. As of July, the District Court had been assigned over 300 protest-related cases, the majority of which were still pending.