Today, 11 March 2023, the Hong Kong Magistrate Court sentenced three former members of the defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (Hong Kong Alliance) to four and a half months in prison for refusing to turn over sensitive data to national security police. ARTICLE 19 condemns this decision and stands in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong. The Alliance members, and all others arbitrarily detained or charged under the National Security Law must be released, and the Law repealed.
Hong Kong Alliance was the organisation behind the annual Tiananmen Square vigil, which once drew tens of thousands of people. Chow Hang-tung, Tang Ngok Kwan, and Tsui Hon Kwong, its former committee members had been convicted on 4 March for refusing to comply with a national security police request to disclose extensive information about its funding, activities, Board members, executives, and staff.
The data disclosure order was issued under Article 43 of the National Security Law, on the basis of allegations that the group was a “foreign agent”. However, at no point have Hong Kong authorities revealed what foreign entity the activists were accused of colluding with. Chow still faces additional charges of subversion for her activities, which under the National Security Law carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Michael Caster, Interim Co-Head of Asia Programme at ARTICLE 19, said:
‘Like so many other courageous Hong Kongers, the leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre should be honoured as human rights champions. Yet, since the imposition of the National Security Law they have been treated as criminals and subjected to outrageous demands and judgements. They should be walking free, not facing concocted charges for failure to turn over sensitive data in sham security investigations.
Their treatment is a sad ongoing reminder that, under Beijing’s gaze, those who exercise their freedoms of expression and assembly or promote the right to information in Hong Kong are treated as enemies of the state.’
Hong Kong Alliance had been disbanded since September 2021, following the arrest of senior committee members, including Chow, on charges of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ and being a ‘foreign agent’. Since her arrest, Chow has made at least 15 applications for bail, but all have been denied.
Before the Alliance disbanded in 2021, authorities had ordered the group to remove content from their website, Facebook page, and other electronic platforms, and blocked access to their website June 4th Museum of Memory and Human Rights. In October 2021, four UN Special Rapporteurs expressed deep concern over the arrests and ‘urged authorities to refrain from the use of the National Security Law’.
The arbitrary restrictions on Hong Kong Alliance and their members’ rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, and the systematic dismantling of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong were highlighted in a joint-submission filed by ARTICLE 19 and Hong Kong Watch to the UN Human Rights Committee in May 2022.
In July 2022, the UN Human Rights Committee urged Hong Kong to ‘take concrete steps to repeal the current National Security Law and, in the meantime, refrain from applying the Law’.
For more information
Michael Caster, Interim Co-Head of Asia Programme at ARTICLE 19, firstname.lastname@example.org