A major civil society group that was behind some of Hong Kong’s biggest protests has disbanded under increasing pressure from the police.
The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) announced its closure on Sunday, saying that no member was willing to serve as secretariat after its convener, Figo Chan Ho-wun, was jailed for 18 months during a rally in 2019.
The 19-year-old umbrella organization, which in the past had counted numerous political parties as members, has been a significant presence or organizer of protests in Hong Kong. For successive years she organized the annual protests on July 1, until authorities began systematically denying permission to her and other demonstrations, citing the coronavirus.
“Over the course of more than a year, the government continually used the pandemic as a reason to reject demonstration requests from CHRF and other groups; every member group was oppressed and civil society faced unprecedented challenges,” said the CHRF in a statement. reported by local media.
“Originally, the CHRF hoped to continue to meet the challenge with everyone in the existing ways, but the coordinator Figo Chan is already in jail due to several cases, and the secretariat can no longer maintain its operations. With no members participating in the next secretariat, we can only grudgingly announce our dissolution. “
Chan, 25, was jailed in May along with other high-profile Hong Kong activists, Lee Cheuk-yan, Jimmy Lai, Albert Ho and Leung “Long Hair” Kwok-hung, for their participation in a protest on 1 October 2019, one of hundreds of pro-democracy rallies held in Hong Kong that year, but coinciding with China’s National Day.
That protest saw violent clashes and chaos in the streets, with police using tear gas and water cannons against protesters, some of whom threw Molotov cocktails and lit bonfires. An 18-year-old student was shot point-blank by a police officer.
The dissolution came just days after the police chief suggested that earlier demonstrations organized by the CHRF may have violated national security law, despite the CHRF obtaining permits and repeated assurances from authorities that the CHRF law 13 months is not retroactive.
Police have been investigating CHRF’s finances since April, and on Sunday the South China Morning Post quoted a government-related source as saying that police would continue to pursue the group regardless of its disbandment.
In its statement on Sunday, CHRF thanked the people of Hong Kong for walking with them over the past two decades, which “allowed the world to see Hong Kong, allowed light to shine through the darkness, and sowed the seed of democracy and freedom in people’s hearts. ”.
CHRF’s dissolution comes just days after Hong Kong’s largest teachers union also announced its dissolution. Civil society and community groups are under increasing political pressure in the city, where authorities continue to crack down on anything that could be construed as dissent or anti-Beijing sentiment.
Last month, five members of a speech therapists union were arrested for publishing children’s books about sheep trying to contain wolves in their village. The books, which supposedly sought to explain the democratic movement to children, were accused of seditious content.
The dissolution of the CHRF and the teachers union followed successive articles in China’s state media targeting the organizations.
“For the anti-China and trouble-making forces, it is only a matter of time before they court their own ruin,” People’s Daily, China’s leading state media, said on Tuesday.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism