Hong Kong: Tiananmen vigil group scuttles itself

The pro-democracy group which for three decades organized in Hong Kong annual vigils in memory of the victims of the crackdown on Tiananmen Square in Beijing announced on Saturday that it had voted to dissolve it, in the face of growing pressure against dissent in the city.

“It’s a very painful breakup,” Hong Kong Alliance member Tsang King-shing said after the vote. “The government uses all kinds of laws to force a civil society group to disband,” he added.

The group was one of the most visible symbols of political pluralism in Hong Kong. His disappearance is the latest illustration of the rapidity of Beijing’s takeover of the former British colony, a major world business center that was once semi-autonomous.

After announcing their dissolution, Alliance officials read a letter from their president, Lee Cheuk-yan, in prison.

“Deprive of memory”

“A regime cannot deprive the people of their memory and their conscience,” he wrote. The convictions of the Hong Kong Alliance will be transmitted to the hearts of Hong Kong people. “

Earlier this month, police charged three senior officials, including Mr. Lee, with subversion, a crime against national security. Police also ordered the group to take down its website and social media platforms, and authorities have promised to revoke its registration as a company.

This dissolution was not unanimous among the leaders of the alliance.

“I still hope to show the convictions of the Hong Kong Alliance to the whole world and continue this movement which has already lasted for 32 years”, wrote lawyer Chow Hang Tung earlier this week.

But other personalities, including Lee and Albert Ho, have indicated that they are in favor.

The Alliance was told earlier this year that it was under investigation by the national security unit and ordered to hand over a plethora of documents and details on its members. .

Unlike many opposition groups who quickly retreated or obeyed police demands, the Alliance took a more provocative approach.

Many of its leading figures are lawyers and have argued that the police request was illegal.

At the end of August, the city’s new national security police sent letters to Alliance leaders, accusing them of being “agents of the foreign forces”.

The letters also asked them to hand over the personal information of all members since its founding in 1989, all meeting minutes, income records and its interactions with several NGOs regarding democracy and human rights in China. .

When the Alliance confirmed that it would not cooperate, the police accused its leaders of subversion.

30 years of vigils

Officially titled “Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China”, the group was founded in May 1989 to support students who organized rallies for democracy. and against corruption in Beijing.

A month later, on June 4, the student movement was crushed in blood. The event remains heavily censored by the Communist regime in mainland China, but in Hong Kong, the Alliance kept its memory alive for the next three decades while calling on the Chinese leadership for reform, with slogans such as “Put end of the one-party regime ”and“ Building a democratic China ”.

On June 4 of each year, the Alliance held large candlelight vigils in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, which were regularly attended by tens of thousands. Crowds have grown in recent years as anger among locals over Beijing’s way of handling the city has intensified.

The last two vigils had been banned by the police, officially because of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Hong Kong Police and Territory Leader Carrie Lam have warned in recent weeks that disbanding an organization will not protect it or its staff from prosecution under the National Security Act , a draconian text adopted following the 2019 protests, or any other legislation.

In recent months, around 30 militant groups have scuttled themselves, including the city’s largest union and the coalition that organized the massive pro-democracy protests of 2019.

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