Three officials from the Chinese embassy in South Korea have visited the office of a Korean organisation after it awarded a rights prize to a detained Hong Kong Tiananmen crackdown vigil activist, the NGO says.

Chow Hang-tung
Chow Hang-tung. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The alleged visit to the May 18 Foundation came after it picked Chow Hang-tung – the ex-vice-chairperson of the defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China – as this year’s winner of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.

The foundation confirmed the encounter with HKFP on Wednesday, saying officials visited on Monday and expressed their opinions during a 40-minute meeting. HKFP sought comment from the embassy, but several calls and emails to the publicly-listed contact details failed.

Chow has been accused of conspiring to incite subversion, together with the Alliance and two of its form leaders, under the Beijing-imposed national security law. She has been detained in custody since September 2021.

The activist was also convicted of failing to comply with a national security police data request in March

‘A criminal’

During Monday’s meeting, the Chinese officials said the human rights award was “meant for good,” so it should not be given to Chow, as they claimed that she was “a criminal under detention in prison,” a staffer from the foundation told HKFP.

The May 18 Foundation
The May 18 Foundation. Photo: The May 18 Foundation, via Facebook.

The Chinese officials said Chow “broke the law against the Chinese government,” but did not mention what criminal acts Chow had allegedly committed, the staff added.

The prize organiser said it will not withdraw its decision to present the prize to the Hong Kong activist. “The prize is for encouraging people to defend human rights and democracy,” HKFP was told.

The awards ceremony for the human rights prize is scheduled for May 18 – the anniversary of the Gwangju Democratic Uprising, which was a historical turning point for South Korea’s democratic development.

The Tiananmen crackdown occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters in Beijing.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.