Police in Hong Kong have launched an investigation against the pro-democracy group that organises the city’s annual rally to commemorate those who died in China’s crackdown on protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
The police’s national security unit on Wednesday sent a letter to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, accusing it of collusion with foreign forces and requesting information about its membership, finances and activities by September 7, according to a copy the group sent to reporters.
Similar letters were sent to several individuals and associations that are members of the alliance, the group said.
Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The letters accused the alliance of being “an agent of foreign forces” and warned the group’s members that failure to provide the information by the deadline could result in a 100,000 Hong Kong dollar fine ($12,846) and six months in jail.
The group said in July that it had laid off staff members to ensure their safety and that half of its committee members had resigned.
“It’s ridiculous that the police accused the alliance of being an agent of foreign forces,” alliance Vice-Chairwoman Chow Hang Tung told the Reuters news agency.
“It has nothing to do with any foreign agents nor has it received any instructions from foreign countries.”
Alliance leaders Albert Ho and Lee Cheuk-yan are already in jail for their roles in anti-government protests that roiled the city in 2019.
Arrests, imprisonment and exile
The investigation comes days after Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the group that organises Hong Kong’s annual July 1 rally and galvanised millions to take part in street protests in 2019, disbanded after it was investigated by the police.
It also marks the latest blow to the opposition movement, which has come under immense pressure since Beijing imposed a national security law last year that punishes broadly defined crimes such as collusion with up to life in prison.
Since then, dozens of opposition politicians and activists have been arrested, jailed or fled into exile.
Civil society groups have also disbanded, including the Professional Teachers’ Union, after it was criticised by Chinese state media.
Critics of the law say it is being used to crush dissent, an assertion authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong reject.
News of the police inquiry casts a shadow over the future of the June 4 rally in Hong Kong, where thousands of people gather to light candles for the pro-democracy demonstrators killed by Chinese troops in Beijing .
Authorities banned it this year, citing coronavirus restrictions and deployed thousands of police across the city to prevent people gathering.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Free Press reported that administrators of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) have asked dozens of student leaders about their roles in a controversial meeting that passed a now-withdrawn motion expressing sympathy with a man who attacked a police officer.
The move came days after four council members were arrested and charged with advocating “terrorism” under the national security law, despite them withdrawing the motion, apologising and stepping down.
According to the report, the students were “invited” to respond to questions about their attendance in the meeting, and whether they took part in the voting.
A total of 32 students reportedly participated in the meeting that passed a resolution to “express deep sadness” at the death of Leung Kin-fai.
Leung seriously wounded a police officer during an attack on July 1 in Causeway Bay before stabbing himself to death.
The Hong Kong government and the university administration had denounced the resolution accusing the students of “whitewashing violence”.