Hong Kong Police Raid Tiananmen Museum, Charge Founders With 'Subversion'

Police haul away exhibits and boxes of materials after the organizers of a candlelight vigil refuse to comply with a request for evidence.
By Emily Chan and Lau Siu Fung
2021.09.09
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Hong Kong Police Raid Tiananmen Museum, Charge Founders With 'Subversion' A National Security Department police officer takes away a sign from Hong Kong's June 4th Museum dedicated to the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, Sept. 9, 2021.
AFP

 UPDATED: 02:35 p.m. EST on 2021/09/09

Hong Kong's national security police on Thursday charged the organizers of a now-banned candlelight vigil commemorating the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen massacre with "subversion," following a raid on a museum they founded to preserve historical records of the bloodshed.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, its former leaders Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho, and current vice chair Chow Hang-tung have been charged with "incitement to subvert state power."

Chow and four other Alliance members have also been charged with "failing to comply with a notice to provide information" under Article 43 of the national security law.

The charges came as national security police in Hong Kong searched the premises of a long-closed museum commemorating the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen massacre on Thursday, carrying away boxes and exhibits.

Police raided the June 4th Memorial Hall in Mong Kok, which was founded by members of the Alliance.

Footage of the raid posted to Twitter showed police officers carrying out parts of exhibits and display, including cartoon cutouts of late democracy activist and Alliance founder Szeto Wah and late ousted Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang.

The Memorial Hall was shuttered in June after police said it was operating without the necessary licenses.

The raid came after Alliance vice chair Chow Hang-tung and three other key members of the Alliance were reportedly arrested on Wednesday, after refusing to comply with a demand for detailed information on the group's membership, funding sources, and activities in recent years, made under Article 43 of the national security law.

Police later confirmed that they had arrested three men and one woman, aged between 36 and 57, on suspicion of failing to comply with the draconian law that was imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

Former Alliance vice chairman Richard Choi said police had changed the locks and left the premises locked.

"The CCTV at the Memorial Hall entrance at least has been taken away, which suggests that it has been removed from inside the museum as well," Choi told reporters after the raid.

"We think the police also removed the locks and installed new ones."

"Anyone from the Alliance wanting to get inside has to call a police telephone number posted at the the entrance," he said.

A historical archive

He said the museum had been a repository of historical materials, books, publications, and leaflets from the time of the 1989 pro-democracy movement in China, and the subsequent bloodshed by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) that ended weeks of student-led protests on Tiananmen Square.

"It is all historical archive, some of which are originals," Choi said. "It's very hard to assess their value, but given that they are so old, they are very easily damaged."

Veteran Chinese journalist Chang Ping said it was "absurd" that the police had described the Alliance as a "foreign agent."

"The fact that they are shutting down organizations like this shows that the CCP doesn't really care about the true meaning of the slogans it uses," Chang said.

"[It thinks] such groups pose a threat to the regime."

He said all of the rights violations against the people of mainland China during the past seven decades would now be visited on Hong Kong "in condensed form."

"That is the future that Beijing has in mind for Hong Kong," Chang said. "In future, even staying silent may not be enough for Hong Kong people [to protect themselves]."

"Totalitarian politics requires that you live the lie in full."

Twelve plead guilty

Meanwhile, 12 people pleaded guilty in the District Court on Thursday to charges related to "illegal assembly" in connection with a 2020 gathering to mark the June 4 massacre in Victoria Park.

Former opposition lawmakers Albert Ho, Andrew Wan, Cheung Man-kwong, Leung Kwok-Hung, Cyd Ho, Eddie Chu, and Yeung Sum, and democracy activists Figo Chan, Steven Kwok, Chiu Yan-long, Mak Hoi-wah, and Leung Kwok-wah all pleaded guilty.

Jailed pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai and Chow Hang-tung had earlier told the court that they would not plead guilty, and will stand trial on Nov. 1.

Ho told the court that the group were motivated by their consciences and moral commitment to keep up the tradition of mourning June 4, to remember the lessons of history and speak truth to power, government broadcaster RTHK reported.

Four activists, including 2014 student leader Joshua Wong, are serving sentences of between four and 10 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to similar charges in connection with the vigil.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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