Hong Kong group behind large democratic demonstrations dissolves amid China’s crackdown

The Hong Kong protest coalition that staged unprecedented democratic rallies two years ago said on Sunday it was dissolving in the face of China’s radical crackdown on dissent in the city.

Dissolution occurs when China transforms Hong Kong into its own authoritarian image and purges the city of any person or group deemed disloyal or unpatriotic.

The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) was a major player in the months of democracy protests that convulsed Hong Kong in 2019.

But the group said Beijing’s subsequent crackdown on democracy supporters and a de facto ban on protests had left it with little future.

“All member groups have been repressed and civil society faces a severe and unprecedented challenge,” the Civil Human Rights Front wrote in a statement announcing why it was disbanding.

Its remaining HK $ 1.6 million ($ 205,000) in assets would be donated to “appropriate groups,” the statement added.

The 2019 protests began in response to a deeply unpopular law that would have allowed extraditions from the semi-autonomous city to authoritarian mainland China.

But they soon morphed into calls for greater democracy and police accountability after large crowds were dispersed with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The CHRF, founded in 2002, advocated non-violence and routinely drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets.

Some estimates say that more than a million people marched in some rallies, in a city of 7.3 million people.

But the deliberately leaderless democracy movement grew increasingly fierce as clashes increased between riot police and smaller groups of tougher, often young, protesters.

Security law

China’s response to the protesters has been to reject their demands and present them as part of a foreign plot to destabilize the homeland.

A comprehensive national security law was imposed in the city last year that criminalized much of the dissent and has seen many of the city’s democratic leaders jailed for fleeing abroad.

More than 30 civil society groups have already disbanded, fearful that the national security police will come looking for them next, according to an AFP count.

Earlier this week, the city’s largest union, the Professional Teachers Union (PTU), said it would close after nearly 50 years of operation.

Most of the prominent CHRF activists, including former leaders Jimmy Sham and Figo Chan, are already behind bars for organizing protests or on national security charges.

But a small group of activists had kept the organization going, at least in name.

The national security police had already launched an investigation into the umbrella group regarding its finances and whether it was properly registered.

Earlier this week, Police Chief Raymond Siu also told a pro-Beijing newspaper that the CHRF may have violated national security law with its 2019 rallies.

Those comments caused alarm because the law, enacted on June 30, 2020, is not supposed to be retroactive.

Both the CHRF and the PTU’s decision to disband came after several articles were published in China’s state media attacking the organizations and calling on the Hong Kong authorities to do more to dismantle them.

“For the anti-China and trouble-making forces, it is only a matter of time before they court their own ruin,” the People’s Daily, China’s leading state media, said in a commentary on the OCT on Tuesday.

State media have also singled out two other organizations in recent weeks.

It is the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of China’s Democratic Patriotic Movements, which has historically organized the city’s now-banned vigils marking the deadly crackdown on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and the city’s largest pro-democracy labor coalition. , the Confederation of Trade Unions.


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