Legal representatives prosecuting the former organiser of Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen vigils have been ordered to disclose some materials relating to the investigation into the group to the defence.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support for Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the disbanded group behind the candlelight vigils, has been accused by national security police of acting as an agent for foreign forces. The ruling on Wednesday came after Chow Hang-tung, the Alliance’s former vice-chair, demanded that the prosecution disclose which foreign organisations or countries the Alliance was allegedly working for.

June 3 2020 Tiananmen Massacre commemoration Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre
A miniature Goddess of Democracy, a symbolic statute from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Chow and former standing committee members of the Alliance, Tang Ngok-kwan, Simon Leung, Chan To-wai, and Tsui Hon-kwong, were charged under the Beijing-imposed national security law for refusing to comply with a national security data probe.

Some key members of the Alliance, as well as the organisation itself, face prosecution under the national security legislation over alleged incitement to subversion.

The prosecution, led by Acting Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (Special Duties) Ivan Cheung, initially refused Chow’s request, and claimed that disclosing such information would harm public interest.

Principal Magistrate Peter Law ordered on Wednesday that the prosecution must disclose some of the materials. But Law said that disclosing all the materials “will definitely be a serious risk to prejudice an important public interest, i.e. national security.”

The prosecution will have to hand over files including search warrants, protection orders and an investigation report.

However, the magistrate also ordered parts of the information to be withheld or redacted, including the name of the officer who applied for the warrants.

West Kowloon Law Courts Building
West Kowloon Law Courts Building. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The magistrate did not say directly whether the identities of who or what the Alliance was accused of working for would be included in the materials handed to the defence.

The case will head for trial from July 13 to July 19. Two of the defendants in the case, Leung and Chan, pleaded guilty to refusing to comply with a national security data request. Both were sentenced to three months in prison.

The Alliance was a key player in Hong Kong civil society before it disbanded last September. It organised annual candlelight vigils every June 4 to call for democracy and commemorate victims of the bloody Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing, where it is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters in Beijing.

‘We ask for a name’

Appearing in court on Tuesday, Chow said that she was not interested in obtaining the documents from the prosecution, but only wanted “information and an answer.”

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

“We ask for a name, whose agent are we, which government, which foreign agent,” said the former vice-chair. “The defendants were given two weeks to dig out over 30 years of documents, we have been asking for a name for eight months.”

“We have been delayed because we naively thought maybe the prosecution will give us at least an explanation why they cannot tell us.”

The prosecution in turn argued that whether the Alliance was a foreign agent was irrelevant to the case, and that not disclosing the information would not affect the defence.

Tang’s representative said that the Alliance’s status was a matter that had to be determined during trial, as the law stated the definition of a foreign agent, and did not allow room for “reasonable beliefs” of someone being one.

The lawyer also said that the prosecution should consider withdrawing charges as not disclosing relevant information would affect the defendants’ rights to a fair trial, while disclosure of information would harm major public interests.

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Candice Chau

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.