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Residents observe the vigil on June 4 last year along the Kwun Tong waterfront after the usual gathering at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

Group that organised annual June 4 Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong decides to disband

  • The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China becomes latest opposition group to dissolve
  • Group’s call for end to ‘one-party dictatorship’ in mainland China was viewed by some pro-establishment figures as an act of subversion
Leaders of a Hong Kong group behind the annual vigil marking the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown have decided to disband the organisation.

A source said the standing committee of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China held a special meeting on Monday and recommended dissolving the embattled organisation.

The alliance will be disbanded if an emergency general meeting of member groups endorses that decision.

But although alliance vice-chairwoman Chow Hang-tung confirmed the meeting had taken place, she would not comment on whether a recommendation to disband had been made.

“All decisions will be taken by the alliance’s general meeting,” she said.

Alliance secretary Richard Tsoi holds a candle at a June 4 event held on the campus of the University of Hong Kong this year. Photo: Felix Wong
Organisers said more than 180,000 residents attended its vigil in 2019, although police put the figure at 37,000 people at its peak.
The 32-year-old group is the latest opposition organisation to fold after two other civic bodies being investigated under the national security law disbanded.

The alliance – the only group in China openly calling for an end to “one-party dictatorship” – has come under increasing political pressure since Beijing imposed the security law on the city on June 30 last year.

Alliance representative Simon Leung Kam-wai said on Saturday that core remaining members of the group would meet to discuss whether to disband, as one possible response to “the dire political environment”.

Vice-chair of June 4 vigil organiser wins bail at Hong Kong High Court

The Civil Human Rights Front, the umbrella group behind many of Hong Kong’s largest protests, decided on August 13 to disband. Three days earlier, the Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) said it was breaking up after the government severed ties with the opposition-leaning education body and police warned of further action.

Security chief Chris Tang Ping-keung has suggested that the PTU and the front should be investigated for national security offences, and warned that disbanding would not protect them from prosecution.

Key members of several pro-opposition groups told the Post that middlemen with links to Beijing had advised them in recent months to dissolve on their own accord by the end of August or the central and Hong Kong governments would crack down on them later.

Victoria Park was empty on June 4 this year after police banned the annual gathering over health risk fears. Photo: Martin Chan

The alliance’s annual vigil at Victoria Park was the only event of its size on Chinese soil commemorating the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

The alliance, founded that year, had five goals: the release of dissidents, vindication of the 1989 movement, accountability for the crackdown, an end to one-party rule in mainland China and the building of a democratic country.

Pro-establishment figures earlier argued that, under the security law, any calls for an end to one-party rule would amount to subversion. But some legal experts have disagreed, saying the offence required a person to resort to the “use of force or threat of force or other unlawful means” to achieve the stated goal.

End of Hong Kong’s Tiananmen vigil? Pockets of defiance on June 4 in age of national security law

Beijing hinted this summer for the first time that the alliance’s signature slogan was problematic. The director of the central government’s liaison office, Luo Huining, told a forum on June 12 that those calling for an end to one-party rule were the “real enemies of Hong Kong”, although he did not name any entities or individuals.

Local authorities banned the vigil this year and last, citing public health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Various member organisations began withdrawing from the alliance in April. In a statement issued on July 10, the alliance revealed that seven of its 14 committee members had decided to quit, including secretary Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong.

Of the seven remaining, chairman Lee Cheuk-yan and vice-chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan are in jail. All staff members had been dismissed by the end of July, but the alliance said it would continue operating despite its drastically reduced numbers.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Alliance behind annual June 4 vigils to disband