Police arrest four leaders of Hong Kong group behind annual June 4 vigil

Activist and barrister Chow Hang Tung posted on social media shortly after 6.30am that police officers were at her door. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - A day after the city's security chief warned that action will be taken against those who refuse to provide information, four key members of the organisation that holds the annual June 4 Tiananmen vigil have been hauled in by the national security police.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China on Wednesday (Sept 8) said the police arrived at the homes and offices of key members early in the morning.

The group's vice-chairman Chow Hang Tung posted on social media shortly after 6.30am that police officers were at her door.

Besides Chow, committee members Simon Leung Kam Wai, Tang Ngok Kwan and Chan Dor Wai were also arrested, local media reported. The four, aged 36 to 57, are being held in police stations in Central, Tsuen Wan, Yuen Long and Mong Kok for questioning.

Chow's arrest came hours before she was due to represent detained opposition politician Gwyneth Ho, who is charged with conspiracy to commit subversion under a Beijing-imposed national security law, at a bail hearing.

The Security Bureau in a statement issued on Wednesday said any law enforcement actions are based on evidence.

"Ignoring warnings given, the organisation concerned resolutely insisted on refusing to comply with the police's requirement to provide information pursuant to Schedule 5 of the Implementation Rules. Hence, the police have to take law enforcement actions," a spokesman said.

The arrests come after the Hong Kong Alliance refused to hand over information requested by the police's national security unit. The group organises the annual vigil at Victoria Park to mark the crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989 that led to a loss of lives estimated from hundreds to thousands.

It is being investigated for possible breach of the national security law by being a "foreign agent".

The law criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with the highest penalty being life imprisonment.

Last month, the police wrote to the group asking for information to be given by Tuesday (Sept 7) and accused it of being a "foreign agent".

On Sunday (Sept 5), the Hong Kong Alliance held a briefing saying it would refuse cooperation and called the move by the authorities as an attempt to "spread fear", which earned a warning from the city's Security Bureau.

Two days later (Sept 7), the group insisted that the police had failed to support their claim that the Hong Kong Alliance is a "foreign agent", and again refused to hand over details of its finances and operations.

The same day, Secretary for Security Chris Tang said: "For anyone who does not hand over information in accordance with the law, police will carry out follow-up legal actions quickly."

Failure to comply with the request to furnish the police with information could lead to a fine of HK$100,000 (S$17,300) and up to six months in jail.

The arrests come in the wake of a string of disbandment of groups linked to the opposition and pro-democracy camp, including the Professional Teachers' Union and Civil Human Rights Front. The Front was the leading force behind Hong Kong's biggest anti-extradition and anti-government demonstrations in 2019.

Hong Kong Alliance leaders Albert Ho and Lee Cheuk Yan are already in jail for their roles in the 2019 protests.

The group in July said it had laid off staff members to ensure their safety and that half its committee members had resigned.

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