A key member of the alliance which organised Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil has sent a message from prison objecting to its disbandment after two others linked to the group and also serving jail sentences called for the shutdown.

The administrator of Chow Hang-tung’s Facebook page posted a letter from Chow, the vice-chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, saying that she “cannot see how the proactive disbandment of the Alliance would help in continuing our beliefs.”

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

“The bigger the danger [we] face, the more we need to calmly assess the pros and cons of each choice,” wrote Chow, a barrister, in the letter posted on Thursday . “The regime has unsheathed its sword: ‘cooperating’ with its operations at this stage will definitely not get us any advantages.”

Part of Chow’s letter was written after the chairperson of the Alliance Lee Cheuk-yan and its former vice-chairperson Albert Ho signed two identical typed letters urging members to support the disbandment of the Alliance at a meeting this Saturday.

“Friends, in the current social climate, we believe: the best way to deal with the Alliance is for it to disband on its own initiative,” read the letters sent from prison.

Open letters signed by Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho urging members of the Alliance to support disbanding the group. Photo: Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

The Alliance has been a key player in Hong Kong civil society for three decades, organising annual candlelight vigils in Victoria Park every June 4 to call for democracy on the mainland and commemorate victims of the bloody crackdown in Beijing. But like numerous other pro-democracy groups, it has come under pressure to shut down in the wake of the national security law passed in June last year.

The Tiananmen massacre on June 4, 1989 ended months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the army was deployed to crack down on the protesters in Beijing.

Chow said that if the Alliance disbanded on its own initiative, this “will make the Alliance immediately and irrevocably lose [its] voice and right to speak, severing any possibility of continuing to resist in the name of the Alliance.”

“Reading the statements in your open letters, [I] think that you two [Lee and Ho] might have other considerations that cannot be stated in the open letter,” wrote Chow. “I trust your experience and judgements, but I can’t still convince myself that disbanding on our own initiative is a ‘good’ option, let alone ‘the best way to deal’ with things.”

Lee and Ho are currently serving jail sentences for protest-related charges. The pair, along with Chow, and the Alliance have also been charged under the national security law with inciting subversion. Chow has been remanded in custody since early September.

candle tiananmen vigil june 4 victoria park 2020
Photo: Tam Ming Keung/United Social Press.

Chow, 36, has also been charged along with four other executive committee members of the Alliance with refusing a police request under the national security law for data. All five pleaded not guilty to the charge when they appeared in court.

“This is a test brought to us by jail: [we] cannot communicate smoothly, or set a common strategy, [we] can only communicate indirectly like this, and in the middle there is a time difference,” Chow’s letter read.

“But as a democratic organisation, this is the way that it should be: having exchanges, clashes, debates, and lobbying of different information and opinion, and then deciding together at a meeting,” wrote Chow.

Emergency general meeting

Saturday’s emergency general meeting in the June 4 Museum will go ahead even though all executive committee members of the Alliance are either serving jail sentences or on remand.

june 4 museum
National security police taking away exhibits from the June 4th Museum. Photo: Citizen News.

“It’s a shame that I cannot attend the general meeting in person, but personally I still hope to give you all one possibility: please oppose the motion to disband, and give the Alliance a change to continue its path,” Chow said.

National security police raided the June 4 Museum following the arrest of the Alliance’s members and took away historical exhibits as evidence. The museum was unsealed on Monday.

Chow referred to rumours that wiretaps and pinhole cameras had been installed in the museum, and that those who oppose to disbandment might face retaliation. She said this showed “how afraid they are of the Alliance’s moral force.”

“If members cannot attend or speak at the general meeting or cannot vote according to your own wishes because of considerations of personal safety, I also understand,” wrote the vice-chair.

“I’m sure you all can definitely find other ways to express your support for the Alliance’s work. Your persistence will be the biggest power for those in jail. Thank you all!”

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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.