National security law: three leaders, group behind Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong charged with inciting subversion against state power

·5-min read

The group behind Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Square vigil and three of its leaders have been charged with inciting subversion against state power under the national security law.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China on Thursday evening said it was told by police the justice department would charge chairman Lee Cheuk-yan, vice-chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan and vice-chairwoman Chow Hang-tung, as well as the group itself.

Chow, along with standing committee members Leung Kam-wai, Tsui Hon-kwong, Tang Ngok-kwan and Chan To-wai, were also to be charged with refusing to provide information requested by national security police.

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Police later confirmed that the alliance and its core members had been charged. A police spokesman said about HK$2.2 million (US$282,000) worth of alliance assets were also frozen in connection with the case. Documents, computers and promotional materials were also seized.

The case will be mentioned in West Kowloon Court on Friday morning.

Tsui was intercepted by police at Mui Wo Ferry Pier on Lantau Island before lunchtime on Thursday, according to a force insider.

He was placed on a list of wanted persons after officers raided his Tsuen Wan flat at about 6.30am on Wednesday and found no trace of him.

His domestic helper, 43, was arrested for obstructing police in the execution of their duty as she refused to open the door, and officers had to break into the flat.

The latest developments followed officers from the force’s National Security Department also searching a now-closed museum operated by the alliance.

Hong Kong national security police take items away from the museum in Mong Kok. Photo: May Tse
Hong Kong national security police take items away from the museum in Mong Kok. Photo: May Tse

At about 10am on Thursday, police escorted Leung, who was among four members arrested earlier, to the June 4 museum on Mong Kok Road to assist in a search for evidence.

Dozens of officers from the Police Tactical Unit guarded the main entrance of the building while detectives from the National Security Department conducted the search inside.

Just before noon, officers were seen taking more than 10 large, empty plastic boxes into the building.

4 from Tiananmen vigil group arrested after refusing national security police request

“The search was to gather evidence as part of our investigation against the core members of the alliance,” a force insider said.

At about 2pm, boxes of items seized from the museum were loaded onto a truck outside the building. The confiscated material included cardboard cut-outs of the museum logo and a caricature of the alliance’s late co-founder Szeto Wah. Leung, who was handcuffed, was later escorted out of the building.

The June 4 museum was forced to close ahead of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown this year after the government launched an investigation into it following a complaint. The group was fined HK$8,000 (US$1,000) for operating the exhibition without a proper licence.

On Thursday afternoon, officers also escorted another arrested standing committee member, Tang, to a search of the alliance’s storage unit in an industrial building on Tai Lin Pai Road in Kwai Chung. An officer took away a trolleyload of materials.

Police are known to be seeking financial records connected to the group’s activities with the New School for Democracy, the Asia Democracy Network, the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group and other organisations funded by the US-based National Endowment for Democracy.

Those who fail to provide information in a national security investigation can be fined up to HK$100,000 (US$13,000) and jailed for six months.

Tsui has applied for a judicial review challenging the order to hand over information, arguing that the alliance was a Hong Kong company controlled by its own members, not any “foreign government” or “foreign political organisation”.

Meanwhile, Beijing’s foreign ministry in Hong Kong hit out at British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab over his criticism of the arrests. Raab had said on Twitter that Beijing was using the national security law to “dismantle civil society and stifle political dissent in Hong Kong”.

A spokesman slammed Raab’s comments as “despicable” and a “gross interference in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs”.

Alliance core member Leung Kam-wai, who was arrested on Wednesday, is led out of the June 4 museum after being escorted there by police for Thursday’s search. Photo: May Tse
Alliance core member Leung Kam-wai, who was arrested on Wednesday, is led out of the June 4 museum after being escorted there by police for Thursday’s search. Photo: May Tse

“The alliance members openly defied the requirements related to cooperation with police,” the spokesman added. “The Hong Kong national security law protects the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people in accordance with the law, but any rights and freedoms have clear boundaries stipulated by the law.”

The ministry also issued a separate statement in response to remarks from US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who took aim at Hong Kong’s police force on Twitter.

Blinken wrote: “Hong Kong authorities must end ongoing threats against civil society and individuals with differing political viewpoints.” He also claimed the arrests were “politically motivated” and a “blatant abuse of the law by those in power”.

Stressing that Hong Kong police did not overstep their authority, the ministry spokesman countered: “The vast majority of countries in the international community fully understand and respect China’s legitimate efforts to safeguard national security.

“Excessively slandering and obstructing China’s implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong has exposed [the United States’] undisguised double standards and hegemonic face.”

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