Hong Kong Rights Lawyers Concern Group Disbands After Police Letter

The group says it has already begun 'voluntary liquidation,' the latest in a line of civil society groups to dissolve after political denunciation and police investigation.
By Cheng Yut Yiu, Amber Kong and Man Hoi Yan
Hong Kong Rights Lawyers Concern Group Disbands After Police Letter A protester from Hong Kong's China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group holds placards showing lawyers missing or detained in China in a file photo.

A Hong Kong group that once campaigned for China's embattled human rights lawyers announced on Tuesday it would disband after being investigated by national security police under a city-wide crackdown on public dissent and peaceful opposition.

The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (CHRLCG) said in a statement on its website that it had received a letter of enquiry from the Hong Kong Police dated Aug. 25, 2021.

"The CHRLCG has decided to dissolve in September 2021 and has already activated the voluntary liquidation procedure," the statement said.

"Directors of the CHRLCG are going to resign from their directorships soon."

The group is the latest in string of civil society groups to disband following investigation by national security police.

The pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) will vote on Oct. 3 on whether to disband after being denounced in the Beijing-backed media, a typical precursor to investigation under the national security law.

The denunciations usually focus on accusations that a given activist group or non-government organization has done something that could be in breach of the law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

Several organizations, including protest march organizers the Civil Human Rights Front, the Professional Teachers' Union, and Wall-fare, a prison support group for those in custody because of the 2019 protest movement, have disbanded following similar articles, or after being criticized by Hong Kong's leaders.

And the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance said it had recently received a letter from the Registry of Trade Unions alleging that its funds were used for "political purposes."

Three are denied bail

The CHRLCG's decision to disband came as three activists linked to the Hong Kong activist group Student Politicism were denied bail on Tuesday following their arrest on subversion charges under a draconian national security law.

West Kowloon Court principal magistrate Don So rejected bail applications from lawyers acting for group convenor Wong Yat-chin, 20, and former members Chan Chi-sum, 20 and Jessica Chu, 18.

The trio embraced each other and cried in court when they heard bail had been denied, with the case adjourned until November following a request from the prosecution.

Judge So said he didn't believe the defendants would refrain from further actions "endangering national security" if they were released, meaning that the trio will now spend the Mid-Autumn Festival in jail instead of with their families.

Wong and Chan said they would reapply every eight days, while Chu waived her right to further bail hearings.

Their supporters also hugged each other, or wiped away tears when the decision was announced, while others chanted "release political prisoners!" and "Inhumane!"

Wong said in a message posted to social media by his lawyer that his fate was perhaps the result of the times Hongkongers are now living through.

"I hope we can all live bravely and openly, so we can face this together," Wong said. "[Let's] face fear, challenge fear, and conquer fear."

He also told people to "take care of themselves" and enjoy the Mid-Autumn Festival.

According to the indictment, Wong, Chan, and Chu conspired with others in Hong Kong to "organize, plan, implement or participate in acts of force, or the threat to use force, or other illegal means to subvert state power, namely, to overthrow or undermine the current political system of the People's Republic of China ... and overthrow the central government or the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government."

Their alleged actions dated from Oct. 25, 2020 to June 16, 2021, it said.

'Subversive acts'

Police had early alleged the trio had carried out "subversive acts" including warning people not to use the government's LeaveHomeSafe COVID-19 tracking app, and "inciting hatred of the government" via street booths.

Meanwhile, the host of an English-language talk show for government broadcaster RTHK was reportedly pulled from the show following an episode focusing on the ongoing crackdown on civil society groups under the national security law.

"Backchat" co-host Hugh Chiverton confirmed to Stand News on Tuesday that he was still at the station, but hasn't been heard on air since the civil society episode, which hasn't yet been uploaded to the archive section of the RTHK website.

The episode had featured former City University politics lecturer and pro-democracy activist Joseph Cheng.

Chiverton referred all queries about the show to RTHK's communications team, who told the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) that it wouldn't comment on "internal editorial matters of individual programmes."

"RTHK reviews the programme content from time to time to ensure compliance with RTHK Charter, the Producers' Guidelines and the Communications Authority's Codes of Practice," it said in a statement posted to Twitter by HKFP.

Chiverton and Koh had earlier interviewed Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam about the national security crackdown, during which Lam warned Koh that she was "treading on dangerous lines" after the host asked her about the government's failure to communicate with protesters during the 2019 anti-extradition movement.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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