Barrister Tonyee Chow Hang-tung and three others from a group that organizes the annual June 4 vigil have been arrested in another blow to the activist movement.
The 36-year-old Chow, vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, and three other standing committee members – Leung Kam-wai, Tang Ngok-kwan, and Chan To-wai – were arrested at their homes or offices yesterday.
Without revealing their names, police said in a statement that three men and one woman are suspected of violating Article 43 of the national security law and that they “[failed to] comply with the requirement to provide information.”
The alliance gave a formal letter to the police force’s national security department on Tuesday but without handing over the information being demanded from it, including details of its membership, operations and finances.
It also denied the police suggestion that the alliance was a “foreign agent.”
Police said the four arrested are between the ages of 36 to 57 and officers did not rule out more arrests.
Of the alliance’s seven standing committee members only Tsui Hon-kwong, who has applied for a judicial review against the police’s request for information, has not been arrested.
The alliance’s chairman, Lee Cheuk-yan, 64, and vice chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan, 69, are currently in prison for convictions related to 2019’s social unrest.
The alliance wrote on its Facebook page that the four arrested yesterday were being held for questioning at police stations in Central, Tsuen Wan, Mong Kok and Yuen Long.
“[We] repeat, Hong Kong Alliance is not a foreign agent,” it added.
Before Chow was arrested from her office at the Bank of America Tower in Central, she made several Facebook posts and live streams before 7.30am to inform others that police had been pressing the doorbell and trying to hit upon the door’s password repeatedly.
Chow also wrote that it was a shame she could not attend the bail hearing of former journalist Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam, who is among 47 politicians and activists charged with subversion for organizing or participating in the pro-democracy camp’s primary elections last year.
“They should have said so earlier about the arrest then I wouldn’t have had to stay up almost the entire night to prepare for appearing in court,” Chow said, adding police should “compensate me for my sleeping time!”
Chow had been set to be the legal representative for Ho in a bail application at the High Court yesterday. Defense counsel Douglas Kwok King-hin filled in for Chow.
Kwok also withdrew Ho’s bail application as Court of First Instance judge Esther Toh Lye-ping refused to revoke a statuary restriction on media reports of bail applications. That prohibits publication and broadcast of negotiations in court.
Ho’s representative on Facebook stated on Tuesday that the ex-journalist thinks the restriction should be lifted for the media to report the hearing to protect the interests of national security law case defendants.
The Security Bureau stated its support for the arrests of the alliance’s leading lights, who could face imprisonment of up to six months and fines of HK$100,000 if convicted.
“Ignoring warnings given, the organization concerned resolutely insisted on refusing to comply with police’s requirement to provide information,” the bureau spokesman argued, adding that “actions taken by law-enforcement agencies are based on evidence.”
Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong wrote in a statement that the arrest action “shows those who have violated the law will be investigated.
“We firmly support Hong Kong police to continue their investigation of the alliance and its core members and to deal with them in accordance with the law.”
Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu said the administration’s stance is clear: if actions by anyone or any organization violated the law then they should be dealt with in accordance with the law.
Former lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung, who has been granted political asylum in the United Kingdom, tweeted that the arrests were “absurd and unacceptable” as police had arbitrarily labeled the alliance a foreign agent without providing any evidence nor court approval.