Hong Kong vigil leaders in Tiananmen accused of subversion


A group that organized an annual candlelight vigil in Tiananmen and three of its leaders have been charged with subversion under Hong Kong national security law.

HONG KONG – A group that organized an annual candlelight vigil in Tiananmen and three of its leaders have been accused of subverting Hong Kong’s national security law as authorities step up efforts to crack down on disagreements in the city.

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in the city’s Victoria Park for the past 30 years to commemorate China’s bloody military showdown against pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

It was the only public commemoration of the great showdown on the suppression of Chinese soil, in which a multitude of people lit candles and sang songs in favor of democracy.

Police have banned vigils for the past two years, citing a coronavirus pandemic, although critics believe the ban is part of a crackdown on disagreements between Beijing and Hong Kong leaders after months of anti-government protests in the area in 2019.

Authorities have now characterized the Hong Kong Alliance for Support of China’s Patriotic Democratic Movements as a foreign agent and sought details about the group’s operations and finances in connection with its alleged activities and ties to democratic groups abroad.

Leading members of the alliance have so far refused to cooperate with the police request for information, and five of them were arrested this week for non-compliance.

The alliance said late Thursday that the group, its president Lee Cheuk-yan, as well as vice presidents Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung have been accused of inciting undermining state power under the National Security Act. The case was brought to court on Friday.

Lee and Ho are already serving prison sentences for their roles in the 2019 unauthorized protests.

Chow, one of those arrested earlier this week for disobeying a police request for information, has been denied bail and will be remanded in custody.

Police also seized computers, documents and promotional material from a closed museum on June 4, operated by the alliance in memory of a showdown with Tiananmen.

Police said the alliance’s assets worth $ 2.2 million ($ 280,000) were also frozen.

Dozens of pro-democracy activists have been arrested in the past year, others have fled the city into exile, and the city has amended election laws to increase the number of seats for pro-Beijing lawmakers while reducing those directly elected.

The National Security Act, which Beijing imposed on the city in June last year, criminalizes subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion by foreigners to interfere in city affairs.

Critics say the National Security Act, which was used to arrest more than 100 people, nullifies the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it was handed over to China in 1997. Hong Kong has been promised to retain freedoms not found on land for 50 years, such as freedom of speech and gatherings.


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