Pro-China Media Keeps up Attacks on Hong Kong Civil Society

March organizers the Civil Human Rights Front hold a rare street protest outside Beijing's liaison office calling for the release of political prisoners in China.
2021.08.13
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Pro-China Media Keeps up Attacks on Hong Kong Civil Society Civil Human Rights Front members hold a protest outside Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, calling for the release of political prisoners held in China, Aug. 12, 2021.
RFA

Authorities in Hong Kong on Friday kept up their crackdown on the city's civil society, with march organizers the Civil Human Rights Front the latest in the firing line under a draconian national security law imposed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

According to the city's police chief, the CHRF may be pursued under the national security law despite not having organized any protests or marches since it took effect on July 1, 2020.

"In recent years, [the CHRF] has organized a series of mass rallies, some of them are suspected of violating the national security law," Siu was quoted as saying by the CCP-backed Ta Kung Pao newspaper.

"The force will investigate thoroughly."

CHRF vice chairman Dickson Chau said he would continue to speak out on issues of interest to the group, following a street protest held Aug. 12 outside the CCP's Central Liaison Office in Hong Kong, calling for the release of all political prisoners in mainland China.

The group read out the names of prominent political prisoners including New Citizens' Movement leader Xu Zhiyong and rights attorney Ding Jiaxi.

Asked if he thought the protest was risky, Chau said no.

"I don't think the Central Liaison Office is some kind of sacred and inviolable place," he said. "We came to demonstrate, exercising our rights under the Basic Law, to talk about the appalling treatment of political prisoners in mainland China and Hong Kong."

"Our numbers were also in line with current restrictions on public gatherings due to the pandemic, so I don't see where the risks would lie," Chau said.

Denunciations in CCP-backed Hong Kong media outlets are increasingly a precursor to investigation by the national security police, a department set up under the law to investigate suspected cases of "sedition, secession, subversion and terrorism."

In practice, the law has been used to justify an ever-widening clampdown on peaceful protest, political opposition, and any public criticism of the authorities.

'Malignant tumor'

Earlier this week, Hong Kong's biggest teaching union, the Professional Teachers' Union (PTU), announced it was disbanding after being described as a "malignant tumor" in need of eradication by CCP mouthpiece the People's Daily.

A total of 47 former lawmakers and democracy activists are currently awaiting trial for "subversion" for taking part in a democratic primary to try to boost the number of seats held by pro-democracy candidates in the Legislative Council (LegCo). The primary was deemed an attempt to subvert the government.

According to the Ta Kung Pao, Siu said the CHRF, which organized the once-annual protest marches on July 1, the anniversary of the 1997 handover to Chinese rule, had never registered as an organization.

Police have already requested information from the CHRF, saying it was in breach of the Societies Ordinance.

No plans to disband

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Journalists' Association (HKJA) said it feared it could be next on the government's blacklist of civil groups, along with the pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU).

HKJA chairman Ronson Chan said the HKJA has no plans to disband, and will ignore denunciatory comments in the pro-Beijing press.

"Most of what the Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao report ... isn't true," Chan said. "We aren't in any kind of opposition, we all support the Basic Law, and we have never colluded with a foreign power."

His comments came after Chan reported on his social media account that he was being followed by two unidentified men on Thursday evening, one of whom referred to him as "a prostitute."

"After I parked my car at a shopping mall near my workplace yesterday, someone suddenly interacted with me," Chan told RFA. "I thought he was watching me, but to be honest, this is just my personal feeling."

"When I left the parking lot near the office to go home, I saw two old Japanese RVs of the same model ... these are just fragments of a puzzle that lead me to believe that I'm being followed," he said.

Current affairs commentator Johnny Lau said Beijing is likely testing the waters with its use of pro-CCP media in Hong Kong against civil organizations.

"Is every critical opinion published by the People's Daily or Xinhua news agency the direct result of an official directive?" Lau said. "I think they send out these signals to see how the other side will react."

"I think the authorities will take the next step based on the reaction of that organization."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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