Hong Kong Police Arrest Key Members of Tiananmen Vigil Organizing Group

Vice chair Chow Hang-tung is arrested for refusing to submit information about the group's membership, funding, and activities.
By Man Hoi Yan, Emily Chan and Lu Xi
2021.09.08
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Hong Kong Police Arrest Key Members of Tiananmen Vigil Organizing Group Chow Hang-tung, standing committee member of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, speaks at a press conference at the June 4th Museum in Hong Kong, Sept. 5, 2021.
AFP

Police in Hong Kong on Wednesday arrested key members of a group that once organized an annual candlelight vigil for the victims of the June 4, 1989 massacre in Beijing, the group said.

Chow Hang-tung, vice chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, was taken away from her home in handcuffs wearing a black T-shirt with the word "Truth" emblazoned it in the early morning after posting to social media that the police were at her door.

"Someone has been ringing on our doorbell and trying to hack through our door security code for the past five or 10 minutes," Chow wrote.

Chow, a barrister by profession, said she regretted she would be unable to appear at the High Court on Wednesday to argue that former Stand News journalist and activist Gwyneth Ho, who is awaiting trial under the national security law, should be released on bail.

"I fear Gwyneth may not be released after the bail hearing this morning," Chow wrote. "My message to the people of Hong Kong: keep fighting and don't give in to power wielded unreasonably."

At least three other key members of the group -- Leung Kam-wai, Chan To-wai, and Tang Ngok-kwan -- were also taken away, the Alliance said.

Police later confirmed that they had arrested three men and one woman, aged between 36 and 57, on suspicion of failing to comply with an information request under Article 43 of a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

They said further arrests could still be made.

The arrests came after the Alliance refused to cooperate with a request by national security police to hand over detailed information on its finances, membership, and activities dating back years.

Chow had argued that the group wasn't bound to comply with the Aug. 25 order to hand over confidential documents by Sept. 7, because it isn't an agent of a foreign government under Article 43 of the national security law.

The police have said they will take action against any group failing to comply with such orders.

Prepared for arrest

Her fiance Ye Du, who lives in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, said he had made mental preparation for Chow's arrest.

"They moved so fast to take her in that I'm not sure she was even prepared for it herself," Ye told RFA. "I spoke with her around midnight last night ... and she said she would be in the High Court to represent Gwyneth Ho."

"As for me, I have been mentally prepared for this for a long time," Ye said. "As a member of the democratic movement myself, this is entirely to be expected."

"We have become used to the idea that people we know disappear, be it in mainland China or Hong Kong," he said. "We are accustomed to living in darkness."

Ye said it was unlikely that Chow would be granted bail once charged under the national security law, and it was unclear when he would hear from her again.

Under the law, failure to submit information under the law by the specified deadline is punishable with fines of up to 100,000 yuan and imprisonment for up to six months.

Request for review

On Tuesday, Alliance committee member Tsui Hon-kwong said he would apply for a judicial review over the police's demand, saying the Alliance wasn't a foreign agent.

"Our name is the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, so we are obviously patriotic," Tsui said.

"There are three criteria for foreign agents: they must receive overseas funding and instructions from a foreign country, and they must act in the interests of a foreign country."

"Everything [we do] is for the benefit of China," he said.

Security secretary and former police chief Chris Tang said on Tuesday that some people were receiving financial support from political organizations overseas to carry out activities that are in foreign interests.

He also hinted that even activists already in jail could be targeted by the national security police, as they were allegedly getting treats brought in by visitors.

“Many people may wonder what the problem is with having one more hair clip, one more piece of chocolate," Tang said. "These signify privilege within prison walls.” 

“By smuggling these things inside… [to] recruit followers and build influence, [they] create hatred towards the government and endanger national security,” he said.

Ho, who was among 47 former lawmakers and pro-democracy activists arrested for "subversion" under the national security law after they took part in a democratic primary, was returned to prison on Wednesday.

Ho had made media access a precondition of going ahead with the hearing.

But national security judge Esther Toh ruled that the media wouldn't be permitted to cover the proceedings. 

“Bail is of course important, but it is meaningless to have a process that is unfair and not open to the public,” Ho said in comments reported by Stand News.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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