Hong Kong March Organizers Accused by National Security Police of Acting as 'Foreign Agents'

Police order key members of the Hong Kong Alliance to turn over its accounts and contacts in overseas organizations or risk imprisonment.
By Man Hoi Yan
2021.08.25
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Hong Kong March Organizers Accused by National Security Police of Acting as 'Foreign Agents' Chow Hang-tung, a barrister and leader of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, poses for a photo in Hong Kong, March 21, 2021.
AFP

Hong Kong's national security police have written to the organizers of a now-banned candlelight vigil for the victims of the June 4, 1989 massacre in Beijing, asking them to reveal details of the group's previous contacts with overseas-based organizations.

Chow Hang-tung, vice chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said the group's members have been given two weeks to comply with the request, made under Article 43 of a national security law imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

A video clip shared to social media showed national security police delivering a letter to Chow at her home, which she signed for.

Chow said the police letter had described the Alliance as an "agent" of foreign organizations, which she denied.

"Just by pinning this label of foreign agent on us, they can then require us to hand over all of this information," Chow told RFA on Wednesday.

"This is an extremely unfair accusation, and a completely false one," Chow said. "How can the Alliance be a foreign agent? We are an organization formed spontaneously by the people of Hong Kong."

"[They are] using this tactic to intimidate civil society groups," she said. But she denied the Alliance had already made plans to disband, saying the issue was still unresolved.

Chow was mentioned in the letter alongside former Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau and Alliance co-founders Albert Ho and Lee Cheuk-yan, who are currently in prison on different charges.

"The national security department of the Hong Kong Police Force wrote to the Aliiance on Aug. 25, saying it was suspected of being a foreign agent," the letter, which was shared with RFA by Chow, said.

"The Alliance is hereby required under Article 43 of the National Security Law to provide detailed information about the activities of its personnel in Hong Kong since its establishment," the letter said.

Deadline for submission

It called for full records and contact details for overseas organizations to be submitted to police by Sept. 7, 2021.

"Failure to supply police with the requested information, unless you can prove that you have tried comply with the request to the best of your ability, or that you were prevented from doing so due to reasons beyond your control, will result in a fine of H.K.$100,000 and a prison sentence of six months if convicted," the letter warned.

Among the organizations listed in the request were the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, the Solidarity Center, and the Center for International Private Enterprise.

Also listed were the Canada-based Federation for a Democratic China, the U.S.-based New School for Democracy, founded by former 1989 student leader Wang Dan, and the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group.

According to a person familiar with the internal operations of the Alliance, the group has been in touch with pro-democracy activists and dissidents in mainland China for many years.

Others may be targeted

Joseph Cheng, a former politics professor at Hong Kong's City University, said other groups could also be targeted, including the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, which has spoken out for the mainland Chinese legal profession since the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began a crackdown in July 2015.

"They are now targeting some of the more prominent activists, both within the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and overseas, as well as the pro-democracy movement in mainland China," Cheng said. "The relevant departments in mainland China likely already have a lot of material on them already."

"The current sweep for documents and records is likely aimed at arresting them and bringing charges, or using the material to go after pro-democracy activists overseas," he said.

Zhang Xianling, a co-founder of the Tiananmen Mothers group representing the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, said she had nothing to fear.

"Even if they eradicate an organization [like the Alliance] or stop it from meeting, they won't necessarily be able to cover everything up," Zhang said. "The traces will still be there in the historical record."

"A lie is still a lie, even after 100 years have gone by."

Hong Kong justice secretary Teresa Cheng declined to comment when contacted by RFA on Wednesday, saying she wouldn't comment on an ongoing investigation.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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