The leader of the League of Social Democrats (LSD) – one of Hong Kong’s last remaining opposition parties – and one of its volunteers were fined HK$1,000 and HK$800 respectively on Thursday for collecting money in public without a permit.
Another volunteer facing the same charge on a different date was found not guilty.
Party chief Chan Po-ying told reporters outside the court that the verdict could have a severe impact on the way small parties raise funds and “the room for us to exist has again shrunk.”
Chan and two volunteers, Christina Tang and Ho Wing-yat, were charged over the display of QR codes linked to the party’s Patreon donation page at street booths on July 24 and August 14 in 2021.
They appeared before deputy magistrate Cao Yuan-shan in Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court.
According to the prosecution’s summary of facts, the 67 year-old party leader was speaking with a microphone while Tang was organising materials and leaflets on both occasions. Ho handed leaflets to passers-by at the street booth in August only.
One of the banners at the booth in July read “Donate to support Long Hair” – referring to Chan’s husband and the LSD’s vice chairperson Leung Kwok-hung, who is currently on trial in the city’s largest national security case. A QR code linked to the Patreon profile of the party was printed below the slogan.
While the defence argued that the Court of Final Appeal had ruled that online platforms were not public places, the prosecution said the law was outdated and asked the magistrate to consider its intention.
Cao said he agreed with the prosecution that the method of collecting money should not be restricted to receiving cash physically.
The deputy magistrate therefore ruled that Chan and Tang were fundraising without a permit at the street booth in July, while there was no proof that the street booth in August was a fundraising activity.
Chan told reporters many organisations printed donation methods on their publications, and could fall foul of the law if they displayed their publications in a public place.
“The authorities are killing us invisibly. We can hardly exist now,” she said, expressing concern over the government’s proposed regulation on crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding has been a popular tool for pro-democracy politicians and activists. The authorities have used money-laundering laws to target campaigns that sought to support demonstrators involved in the 2019 protests and unrest.
Under the proposed regulations, unauthorised crowdfunding campaigns would be outlawed.
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