Hong Kong Protest Organizer Disbands After Criticisms in Beijing-Backed Media

Police say they will go ahead with a probe into the group's members, activities, and sources of funding regardless.
By Kay Lee  and Man Hoi Yan
Hong Kong Protest Organizer Disbands After Criticisms in Beijing-Backed Media Figo Chan, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, is shown at center speaking to the media outside West Kowloon Court in Hong Kong in a Dec. 17, 2020 photo.

Hong Kong's Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), which once organized annual mass rallies on July 1 marking the 1997 handover of the city to Beijing, announced it would disband at the weekend following repeated denunciations by media backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The front, which was never registered as an organization, served as a communication platform for civil society groups to promote human rights and democratic freedom in Hong Kong, according to its Facebook page.

Its job was mostly to organize large-scale, peaceful protest marches to ensure that citizens' voices were heard, it said.

"Regrettably, for more than a year now, the government has consistently rejected our applications to hold marches, using the pandemic as a pretext to suppress the rights of our members," the group said in an Aug. 15 post to its Facebook page.

"With no members participating, the secretariat has been unable to remain operational ... and we have no choice but to declare herewith that we are disbanding," it said.

CHRF convenor Figo Chan was handed an 18-month jail term in May for his role in an unauthorized gathering in 2019. The group said will donate its current assets of H.K.$1.6 million to appropriate organizations.

The announcement came after the CHRF held its AGM, and the decision among member groups was unanimous, the post said.

"We would like to thank the people of Hong Kong for walking side by side with the Front for many years," it said, citing mass rallies of one and two million people in protest over government plans to extradite alleged criminal suspects to mainland China in 2019.

It also cited marches held during the 2014 pro-democracy movement, or Umbrella movement, and marches against CCP-backed infrastructure projects in Hong Kong.

Threat of investigation

The move came after Hong Kong police chief Raymond Siu warned that the group could be investigated under a draconian national security law imposed on the city by the CCP from July 1, 2020.

According to the CCP-backed Ta Kung Pao, Siu said the CHR had never registered as an organization.

Police responded to the CHRF's disbanding by saying the investigation into the group's activities would go ahead regardless.

In April 2021, police ordered the group to submit information on its members, activities, and funding sources, but the group didn't do so by the date specified.

Hu Xijin, editor of the CCP-backed Global Times newspaper, said via his WeChat account that the decision to disband was in itself likely a bid to evade investigation and destroy evidence that could be used in the investigation.

And Ip Kwok-him, who represents Hong Kong China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), said the group's dissolution meant that "large-scale anti-China demonstrations to stir up troubles in Hong Kong haver become history."

But he said more specific protests might be tolerated.

“As long as the activities are not aimed at opposing China and disrupting Hong Kong, but are expressing a demand, they are protected by the Basic Law and we respect that,” Ip told government broadcaster RTHK.

The group's web page was unavailable on Monday.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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