HONG KONG (AP) – The Hong Kong group that had organized annual vigils in memory of the victims of the Chinese army’s crushing of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 voted to disband on Saturday in the midst of an ongoing crackdown on independent political activism in the semi-autonomous city.
Police had informed the Hong Kong Alliance of Support for China’s Democratic Patriotic Movements last month that they were under investigation for working for foreign interests, a charge the group denied.
While he called the investigation an abuse of power, the core members voted 41-4 in a meeting on Saturday to put the 32-year-old group to rest. Tens of thousands of people attended the annual vigil, until authorities banned it in 2020, citing anti-pandemic measures.
The government inquiry came amid heavy restrictions on Hong Kong civil society following mass pro-democracy protests in 2019 and the Party’s imposition of a sweeping national security law Communist ruling in China last year. The legislation effectively criminalized the opposition and severely restricted freedom of expression, while other measures sharply reduced popular participation in the city’s electoral process.
The law, which prohibits subversion, secession, terrorism, and foreign collusion to interfere in city affairs, has forced several civilian organizations to disband or have their ties to the government severed. More than 100 pro-democracy activists have been arrested under the law, including leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance, while other opposition figures have sought asylum abroad or have been intimidated to silence.
In August, the prominent Hong Kong Civil Human Rights Front, made up of a large number of member organizations, said it could no longer function and chose to disband. The group helped organize large protests in 2019, which turned increasingly violent as most of the young protesters clashed with police.
The annual vigil paid tribute to those who died when the Chinese military violently suppressed massive pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
The subject has long been taboo in mainland China, and Hong Kong was the only place in the country allowed to hold such a commemoration. Smaller crowds have gathered this year and into 2020 despite the police ban.
Police had asked the alliance to pass on any information on groups it had worked with overseas or in Taiwan – the autonomous island democracy that China claims as its own territory – as well as contact details. They did not mention the specific incidents that prompted the investigation.
Critics say the National Security Act restricts freedoms that Hong Kong promised it could maintain for 50 years after the land was handed over to China in 1997 by colonial Britain.
In an emailed statement, Amnesty International Asia-Pacific Director Yamini Mishra said that the “effectively forced dismantling” of the alliance shows that Chinese authorities are seeking to censor any mention of the crackdown in Hong Kong. like on the mainland.
“After the recent demise of some of Hong Kong’s biggest unions and the group organizing some of the city’s biggest protests, it is clear that the Hong Kong government is targeting civil society groups with broad support and capacity. to mobilize, ”Mishra said. , the government’s crackdown on these organizations appears likely to continue. “
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