A Hong Kong group which supported human rights lawyers in mainland China has announced it is in the process of disbanding after it received a police data request at the end of last month.
The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (CHRLCG) is the latest civil society group to fold in recent months, amid increased pressure from the authorities following Beijing’s implementation the national security law last June.
The group announced on Tuesday that it had already begun to liquidate and that its directors would soon resign. “The CHRLCG has decided to dissolve in September 2021 and has already activated the voluntary liquidation procedure,” its statement read.
Its website has been scrubbed and its social media accounts have also been deleted.
The group’s founder, veteran democrat and human rights lawyer Albert Ho, resigned from the group last Monday. Ho is currently behind bars over an unauthorised assembly during the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest. He is also facing a national security charge of “incitement to subversion.”
‘Letter of enquiry’
The disbandment comes after the CHRLCG received a “letter of enquiry” from the police on August 25. “[T]he Concern Group has on this date replied to the said letter,” it said, without specifying whether it had provided the requested data.
On the same day, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China received a letter from the national security police requesting information of any activity, correspondence, or financial transactions between the Alliance and two other groups, including the CHRLCG.
The Alliance had refused the data request, accusing it of being “groundless.” In response, the police arrested five key committee members, raided its premises, and froze its assets. It also separately charged the group as well as three leading figures with “incitement to subversion” under the security law.
HKFP has reached out to the police and the Security Bureau for comment.
Founded in 2007, the CHRLCG advocated for the protection of human rights and the development of the rule of law on mainland China, where human rights lawyers and their families face severe pressure from authorities. Human rights lawyers in mainland China have reportedly faced arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearances.
The “709 crackdown,” which began on July 9, 2015, saw over 200 human rights lawyers, jailed, put under surveillance or barred from practicing.