Jailed Hong Kong democrats sign letter urging Tiananmen vigil group to disband

By Rhoda Kwan

Two jailed pro-democracy figures linked to the embattled group behind the annual Tiananmen Massacre vigils have urged its members to vote to disband at a special meeting this Saturday.

Identical, typed letters separately signed by veteran activists Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho Chun-yan were disclosed on Monday by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

Photo: Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

“Friends, in the current social climate, we believe: the best way to deal with the Alliance is for it to disband on its own initiative,” the letters read.

Explainer: How the narrative shifted among Hong Kong leaders on the Tiananmen massacre

“As we understand, the Alliance has set a date for a special general meeting on September 25 to decide on the issue of disbandment. We make a public appeal to all members, support the disbandment of the Alliance.”

The printed letters were signed and dated separately, by Lee last Friday and Ho last Saturday.

Lee and Ho are currently serving two concurrent 18-month sentences for unauthorised assembly during months of pro-democracy demonstrations and unrest in 2019.

Ho had already withdrawn from the Alliance and two other civil society groups on September 13.

HKFP has contacted the Alliance.

‘Severe political situation’

In its announcement on Monday, the Alliance cited an increasingly “severe” political situation and “diverse challenges and difficulties” as reasons for the vote this coming weekend.

Other key pro-democracy groups have already shut down amid a continuing crackdown on them. Critics say authorities are trying to dismantle civil society, something the city’s leader has denied.

Chairs of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China Lee Cheuk-yan (centre) and Albert Ho (right). Photo: The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China via Facebook.

Within the past fortnight, five key Alliance committee members have been charged and denied bail after refusing to comply with a police request under the national security law to provide data.

Separately but on the same day, the group and three of its leaders — including Lee, Ho, and Chow Hang-tung — were charged with “incitement to subversion” under the security law, a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Police have also frozen HK$2.2 million of the groups’ assets and raided its premises, including an already-shuttered museum commemorating China’s 1989 pro-democracy movement and the bloody crackdown on it.

The Tiananmen Square Massacre June 4th candlelight vigil in 2018. Photo: inmediahk.net by CC 2.0

The Alliance was founded in 1989, in support of the student-led pro-democracy movement in China. The military crackdown on protesters in Beijing on June 4 that year is estimated to have killed hundreds, perhaps thousands. The group has spent the past three decades campaigning for justice for victims and an end to China’s one-party rule.

Annual candlelight vigils organised by the group attracted thousands to Victoria Park and were widely seen as a symbol of Hong Kong’s promised freedoms under Chinese rule. The vigil was banned in 2020, and again this year, with authorities citing public health concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic.