Outstanding Hong Kong civil rights group disbands, citing authorities strain

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By Jessie Yeung, CNN

Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the pro-democracy group that organized a few of Hong Kong’s greatest protests, introduced Sunday that it was disbanding — the newest of a string of civic organizations which have dissolved within the wake of a sweeping nationwide safety legislation.

CHRF, an over-arching group of native pro-democracy teams, organized mass marches that drew as many as 2 million individuals through the 2019 pro-democracy, anti-government protests, in response to some estimates.

It has lengthy performed a essential position in Hong Kong’s civic society, because the organizer of the annual July 1 protests that mark the anniversary of town’s handover from Britain to China.

“We’ve aimed to advocate for the human rights and freedom of Hong Kong people. We have abided by the ‘legal, peaceful, rational and non-violent’ principles in organizing mass demonstrations, allowing everyone in society to have a chance in speaking up on issues they care about,” CHRF mentioned in a press release asserting its dissolution.

“Unfortunately, for the past year or so, the government repeatedly used the pandemic as a pretext to reject the front and other organizations’ applications to hold rallies.”

The group mentioned with its chief, Figo Chan, in custody for his half in 2019’s protests, and nobody keen to take over, the group had “no choice but to disband.”

The Hong Kong Police Department acknowledged CHRF’s dissolution in a press release however mentioned it might not absolve the group of any potential prison legal responsibility. The assertion alleged that CHRF, which was based in 2002, broke the legislation as a result of it did not correctly register with the related Hong Kong authorities departments. CHRF didn’t instantly reply to the police pressure’s accusations.

CNN has reached out to the Hong Kong Police Department and the federal government’s Information Services Department for additional remark.

The mass marches organized by CHRF in 2019 started as peaceable demonstrations — however clashes with police quickly tipped the protests right into a six-month-long political disaster that usually turned violent. The protests had been condemned by the central authorities in Beijing, which watched from throughout the border with rising impatience.

When coronavirus restrictions put a maintain on all protests, Beijing moved to promulgate a nationwide safety legislation in June 2020 that criminalized secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with international forces. All 4 crimes maintain a most sentence of life imprisonment.

In the 12 months since, nationwide safety police have arrested protesters and journalists, raided newsrooms, and censored textbooks and web sites.

Authorities have repeatedly denied that they’re cracking down on political opposition or stifling dissent.

“The National Security Law only targets an extremely small minority of criminals and acts which endanger national security, whereas human rights and freedoms enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of the citizens will not be affected at all,” mentioned Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam in a speech on July 5.

But critics say the voluntary closure of the CHRF exhibits the legislation’s far-reaching impression throughout numerous sectors and features of society.

Unions and organizations dissolve

CHRF is simply the newest in a string of organizations and teams which have chosen to disband or depart Hong Kong in current months, citing diminishing civil liberties and a shrinking public sphere.

On Tuesday, the Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU), a gaggle of academics and educators with greater than 100,000 members, introduced that it was disbanding — a call that got here after rising strain from authorities.

Last weekend, a number of Chinese state-run information shops printed articles accusing the union of poisoning the minds of kids, and posing a risk to nationwide safety. Just hours later, Hong Kong’s Education Bureau introduced it was formally chopping ties with the union, which it known as “no different than a political group,” in response to public broadcaster RTHK.

In a letter to its members, the union mentioned it was “deplorable” that the political setting had modified so drastically that civic teams face an untenable future, in response to RTHK.

The authorities’s renouncing of the academics’ union is “absurd” for a number of causes, mentioned Joseph Cheng, a distinguished Hong Kong political commentator now primarily based in New Zealand — one being that they’re a comparatively reasonable group which had historically expressed help for presidency insurance policies.

“The PTU certainly has no inclination in support of Hong Kong independence,” Cheng mentioned. “They are teachers, they are moderates, cautious, they don’t want to have anything to do with violent actions.”

“It was only when the Chinese authorities came out to attack the PTU, then the (Hong Kong) government felt it had to take action,” he added.

John Burns, an emeritus professor on the Department of Politics and Public Administration on the University of Hong Kong, pointed to 1 different cause why the federal government may need lower ties with PTU: to restrict their affect in native elections.

Subsector elections for the Election Committee — which selects the following chief government to guide town — will happen subsequent month.

“This was an announcement to the community of Hong Kong that (the teachers’ union) were no longer legitimate,” Burns mentioned. “This paves the way for pro-establishment unions to take over the positions that previously the PTU seemed to fill.”

Other organizations which have disbanded not too long ago embrace a medical staff’ union, a legal professionals’ group, and extra.

Journalists’ teams, too, are coming below hearth. Members of the media have already confronted intensifying scrutiny and tighter limits, highlighted by the raiding of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, which was pressured to close down in June after its belongings had been frozen by nationwide safety police.

On Friday, the pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po printed a blistering article towards the Hong Kong Journalists Association, calling out a number of of its members by title, and accusing the group of inciting hostility towards the federal government — elevating fears that the group could possibly be subsequent to fold.

Ronson Chan, the top of HKJA, instructed CNN on Friday that the group had no plans for dissolution, and that they’d proceed to guard press freedom in Hong Kong.

The broader impression

The slew of disbandments additionally raises questions on whether or not the safety legislation may be utilized retroactively.

When the legislation was first launched, Beijing and native authorities assured the general public — in addition to alarmed worldwide observers and world leaders — that it might not be.

But current occasions appear to recommend in any other case. In their criticism of the PTU, each Chinese state-run media and Education Bureau pointed to alleged actions in 2019 — earlier than the legislation had even been drafted.

Hong Kong’s police commissioner was extra express, saying on Friday that mass rallies organized by CHRF “are suspected of violating the national security law,” and that “the force will investigate thoroughly,” RTHK reported.

It confirmed that the federal government’s guarantees are “certainly not true, because all these accusations are based on past actions,” mentioned Cheng.

“Obviously, from PTU to CHRF, and the Confederation of Trade Unions, they feel the pressure,” he added. “There is no more tolerance of civil society, there’s no more tolerance of criticisms of any kind — even moderate, reasonable criticisms.”

In the long term, it may imply fewer and fewer voices in Hong Kong’s previously wealthy and pluralistic public sphere — and an inching nearer to the form of system seen in mainland China.

“The Communist Party uses civil society on the mainland, but their civil society is mobilized … where you control information, and where you restrict the right to organize and to freedom of expression,” mentioned Burns.

Hong Kong has for many years offered a protected area for numerous teams to flourish, he added — however now, “all of these actions against unions and associations of various kinds are an attack on civil society.”

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Angus Watson contributed to this report


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https://kvia.com/news/2021/08/15/prominent-hong-kong-civil-rights-group-disbands-citing-government-pressure/
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Jessie Yeung

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