Group behind Hong Kong's Tiananmen vigil denies foreign ties

Sunday's annual Tiananmen Square memorial service in Hong Kong was called an abuse of power by the group behind it.

Group behind Hong Kong's Tiananmen vigil denies foreign ties

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China was notified by police last month that they were investigating the group for working for foreign interests. This accusation was denied by the group.

Chow Han Tung (vice chairwoman of the alliance), said that this was a bad precedent for the national security police in using their power to arbitrarily label any civil organization as an agent foreign agent. She spoke at a news conference to address the police investigation.

Chow stated that the alliance "strongly denies" that it is foreign agents. "We are an organisation that was established during the 1989 democratic movement. It was founded by the Hong Kong people."

This investigation is part of a wider crackdown on Hong Kong's civil society after mass pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019. The authorities have increased control of the city by imposing a broad national security law that criminalizes opposition to the government. Many civil organizations have been forced to dissolve or had their leaders arrested by the law and other reforms.

An annual candlelight vigil is held to remember the students who were killed in 1989 when China's military suppressed large-scale pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen square.

The authorities responded to the announcement of the group in the afternoon with a warning. They reiterated their need for information about "certain foreign agents", but they didn't name any.

"Endangering national safety is a serious crime. In a statement, the Security Bureau of the city said that there is severe damage. They warned that if information is not handed over, it could result in fines and imprisonment.

Hong Kong was the only Chinese city that allowed such a commemoration. In past years, thousands of people had gathered in Victoria Park in honour of the deceased. In spite of police prohibiting the vigil due to coronavirus restrictions, smaller crowds attended this year and 2020.

Police asked the alliance for any information on groups they worked with in Taiwan or overseas, and contact information. The investigation was not prompted by specific incidents.

Chow stated that the alliance had not reached a consensus about whether or not to dissolve. The alliance plans to hold another general meeting on September 25 to continue to debate the issue.

The prominent Hong Kong Civil Human Rights Front was disbanded by a number of members in August. In 2019, the group organized massive protests.

Hong Kong's national safety law has led to more than 100 arrests of pro-democracy activists. It outlaws secession, terrorist acts, and foreign collusion to interfere with the affairs of the city. Other activists have fled to exile.

Critics claim the law restricts Hong Kong's freedoms, which it was promised to maintain for 50 more years after the territory's 1997 transfer to China.

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