The Chinese Communist Party, or CCP, tightened its grip on public dissent Aug. 25 when party leadership announced its investigation into a leading pro-democracy group in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China is a notable supporter of democracy and is the organizer of the annual rally that commemorates protesters who died during the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
The Tiananmen Square Massacre occurred on June 4, 1989, when Chinese troops fired at student protestors who were attempting to block the Chinese military’s advance into Tiananmen Square, resulting in an estimated death toll of several thousand. Every year since the 1990s, groups have gathered on June 4 to remember those who were killed. Longtime Acton friend and pro-democracy activist, Jimmy Lai, was alongside those student protesters when the massacre occurred. He was also a regular attendee of the June 4 rallies.
Hong Kong authorities sent a letter to the alliance requesting information due by Sept. 7 on its membership, finances, and activities, according to Reuters. Reuters also reported that several other like-minded associations and individuals were sent similar letters.
Police did not immediately comment on the investigations.
In the letters, Hong Kong police called the alliance “an agent of foreign forces.” The group was also notified that should they fail to submit the information requested of them by the deadline, members could face HK$100,000 in fines and six months in jail.
The investigation comes after increasing pressure on the alliance to adhere to strict regulations set under the CCP’s National Security Law, or NSL. This past July, the alliance said it had laid off its staff members to ensure their safety and that half of its committee members had voluntarily stepped down.
Leaders of the alliance, Albert Ho and Lee Cheuk-yan, have already been jailed over their roles in anti-government protests in 2019, along with Jimmy Lai.
Almost two weeks ago, the Civil Human Rights Front, or CHRF, the group that organizes a different rally on July 1 that marks the day Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule, disbanded amid increasing pressure under the NSL.
It was on this “Handover Day” in 1997, when Hong Kong was reunified with the People’s Republic of China – the state adopted a “one country, two systems” policy to ensure Hong Kong remained economically autonomous and to protect citizens’ freedoms of speech and assembly.
Today, Hong Kong’s enforcement of strict regulations of the Beijing-imposed NSL on its citizens, in which they arrest or censor any hint of dissent, proves that Hong Kong is moving further and further away from “two systems.”
China’s NSL was implemented in June 2020, and bans what the CCP deems as secession, subversion, or terrorism. More than 100 activists have been arrested, countless others have fled, civil and/or political groups have disbanded, and businesses have been forced to shut down because of this policy.
But Hong Kong and the reigning CCP continue to reject any claims of the NSL restricting citizen’s freedoms.
On the day after the NSL was passed, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam lauded it, saying “the legislation will not undermine ‘one country, two systems’ and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy” at a press conference.
The June 4 rally was banned this year, with police citing its violation of coronavirus policy. Thousands of police were deployed to prevent people from gathering.
The CCP’s censorship of any public display in memorialization allows the destruction of the memory of the massacre itself more attainable. The unrelenting restrictions imposed under the NSL means the CCP will stop at nothing to eliminate any opposing speech, assembly, or thought against their regime.