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Chow Hang-tung denied bail, Hong Kong Alliance to disband

Status: 
Bail Denied
About the situation

On 24 September 2021, vice chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance Chow Hang-tung appeared before the West Kowloon Magistrates Court for her second bail review hearing. The judge denied her bail on the same basis as the last review, that he has "insufficient ground for believing she would not continue to commit acts endangering national security." The woman human rights defender's next bail review is scheduled for 30 September 2021 at the same court.

On 25 September 2021, at an extraordinary General Meeting, the Hong Kong Alliance's member organisations voted 41-4 to dissolve the Alliance.

On 15 September 2021, Chow Hang-tung appeared before the West Kowloon Magistrates Court for her first bail review hearing since she was charged with and denied bail a week ago over the charges of "inciting subversion of State power" and "failing to provide information" to the police under Hong Kong's national security law. The judge denied bail to the woman human rights defender for both charges on the basis that he has "insufficient ground for believing she would not continue to commit acts endangering national security." Her next bail review is scheduled for 24 September 2021.

On 9 September 2021, the police informed the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (the Alliance) that the Department of Justice has decided to charge its chairperson Lee Cheuk-yan, vice-chair Albert Ho Chun-yan, vice-chair Chow Hang-tung, as well as the Alliance as whole, with "inciting subversion of State power" under articles 22 and 23 of the Hong Kong national security law. Chow Hang-tung and four of the Alliance's Standing Committee members are also charged with "failing to comply with notice to provide information" as requested by the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force.

On the morning of 8 September 2021, police arrested Hong Kong woman human rights defender and lawyer Chow Hang-tung and three other members of the Standing Committee of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (the Hong Kong Alliance), one day after they refused to comply with a police order that accuses them of being a “foreign agent” and demands a substantial amount of information about its staff, funding sources, and interaction with Hong Kong and foreign organisations in the last seven years. This is the woman human rights defender’s third arrest since the beginning of June 2021.

About Chow Hang-tung

Chow Hang-tung (鄒幸彤) is a barrister and woman human rights defender in Hong Kong. She has advocated for the protection and promotion of labour rights, as well as for the rights of persecuted human rights defenders in mainland China. She is one of the current vice-chairs of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (the Hong Kong Alliance), a grassroots advocacy group established in 1989 in Hong Kong to campaign for the release of Chinese political prisoners, democratic reforms in China, and accountability for the extrajudicial killings and other violations by the Chinese authorities during the lethal crackdown on pro-democracy protests in June 1989. As a barrister in Hong Kong, she has also provided legal assistance to peaceful activists and protesters targeted by police and judicial actions for their involvement in pro-democracy activities.

27 September 2021
Chow Hang-tung denied bail, Hong Kong Alliance to disband

On 24 September 2021, vice chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance Chow Hang-tung appeared before the West Kowloon Magistrates Court for her second bail review hearing. The judge denied her bail on the same basis as the last review, that he has "insufficient ground for believing she would not continue to commit acts endangering national security." The woman human rights defender's next bail review is scheduled for 30 September 2021 at the same court.

On 25 September 2021, at an extraordinary General Meeting, the Hong Kong Alliance's member organisations voted 41-4 to dissolve the Alliance.

22 September 2021
Chow Hang-tung denied bail, police order removal of online content

On 15 September 2021, Chow Hang-tung appeared before the West Kowloon Magistrates Court for her first bail review hearing since she was charged with and denied bail a week ago over the charges of "inciting subversion of State power" and "failing to provide information" to the police under Hong Kong's national security law. The judge denied bail to the woman human rights defender for both charges on the basis that he has "insufficient ground for believing she would not continue to commit acts endangering national security." Her next bail review is scheduled for 24 September 2021.

On 16 September 2021, the Hong Kong Alliance, of which Chow Hang-tung is a vice chairperson, announced that the Hong Kong police had sent a letter to the Alliance, its seven executive committee members and its company secretary on 10 September 2021. The letter invokes the powers under article 7(2) of the Implementing Rules of Article 43 of the national security law and requires the Alliance to remove designated content on online platforms operated by the Alliance within seven days. The Alliance announced it would remove its official website, its Facebook, and "messages on other designated electronic platforms". By 17 September 2021, the Alliance's website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts were no longer accessible.

13 September 2021
Chow Hang-tung denied bail after being charged with "inciting subversion" and "failing to provide information" to police

On 9 September 2021, the police informed the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (the Alliance) that the Department of Justice has decided to charge its chairperson Lee Cheuk-yan, vice-chair Albert Ho Chun-yan, vice-chair Chow Hang-tung, as well as the Alliance as whole, with "inciting subversion of State power" under articles 22 and 23 of the Hong Kong national security law. Chow Hang-tung and four of the Alliance's Standing Committee members are also charged with "failing to comply with notice to provide information" as requested by the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force.

Also on 9 September 2021, the National Security Department of the police searched the Alliance's June Fourth Museum and warehouse with a court warrant. The police said they seized documents, computers and promotion materials and froze approximately $2.2 million worth of the Alliance’s assets.

On the morning of 10 September 2021, Chow Hang-tung and the other six co-defendants were heard before the West Kowloon Magistrates Court regarding the charge of "incitement to subversion of State power", which the prosecution said are based on acts committed between 1 July 2020 and 8 September 2021 attributed to the Alliance as an organisation and to Chow Hang-tung, Lee Cheuk-yan, and Albert Ho. Under article 23 ("inciting subversion of State power") of the Hong Kong national security law, persons convicted for this offence could be sentenced up to ten years' imprisonment. The judge adjourned the case to 28 October 2021 and denied bail to Chow Hang-tung, who will have her bail application reviewed again on 15 September 2021. Her co-defendants Lee Cheuk-yan, a labour rights defender, and Albert Ho, a human rights lawyer, cannot apply for bail as they are already serving sentences following prior conviction on “unauthorised assembly” charges resulting from their participation in peaceful assemblies in 2020.

In the afternoon of 10 September 2021, at the same court, Chow Hang-tung and four other members of the Alliance's Standing Committee members heard the charge of "failing to comply with notice to provide information" requested by the police. All five pleaded not guilty. The same judge rejected all five human rights defenders' bail applications.

 

8 September 2021
Woman human rights defender Chow Hang-tung arrested after refusing to comply with police data request

On the morning of 8 September 2021, police arrested Hong Kong woman human rights defender and lawyer Chow Hang-tung and three other members of the Standing Committee of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (the Hong Kong Alliance), one day after they refused to comply with a police order that accuses them of being a “foreign agent” and demands a substantial amount of information about its staff, funding sources, and interaction with Hong Kong and foreign organisations in the last seven years. This is the woman human rights defender’s third arrest since the beginning of June 2021.

Download the urgent appeal.

Chow Hang-tung (鄒幸彤) is a barrister and woman human rights defender in Hong Kong. She has advocated for the protection and promotion of labour rights, as well as for the rights of persecuted human rights defenders in mainland China. She is one of the current vice-chairs of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (the Hong Kong Alliance), a grassroots advocacy group established in 1989 in Hong Kong to campaign for the release of Chinese political prisoners, democratic reforms in China, and accountability for the extrajudicial killings and other violations by the Chinese authorities during the lethal crackdown on pro-democracy protests in June 1989. As a barrister in Hong Kong, she has also provided legal assistance to peaceful activists and protesters targeted by police and judicial actions for their involvement in pro-democracy activities.

On 8 September 2021, Chow Hang-tung was arrested alongside three other members of the Hong Kong Alliance. Their arrest came after the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police served a notice to Chow Hang-tung and other members of the Standing Committee of the Hong Kong Alliance on 25 August 2021, under the expansive powers granted to the police under Article 43 of the Hong Kong national security law, which was unilaterally imposed by the central Chinese government on 30 June 2020. On 5 September, the police indicated they have served notices to an unspecified number of organisations in Hong Kong on 25 August 2021. Under the Implementation Rules of Article 43 of the national security law, those who refuse to comply with a data request notice “commits an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to a fine of $100,000 and to imprisonment for 6 months.”

The notice served to the Hong Kong Alliance demands a large amount of information, including the personal information of all board members, Standing Committee members, and full-time employees since the Alliance’s founding 32 years ago in 1989; records from all offline and online meetings of its Board and Standing Committee, conducted in Hong Kong since 2014; and information, such as the date, time, location, purposes, organisers, funding and expenditures, of all offline and online activities conducted in Hong Kong since 2014 which were organised jointly with, organised with the assistance by, funded by, and/or attended by “political parties or other organisations and/or their Hong Kong branches that pursue political ends and that are based outside the territory of the People’s Republic of China or based in Taiwan”, as well as other meetings that the Alliance held with any of these entities since 2014.

The police notice required the Hong Kong Alliance to surrender the required information in writing by 7 September 2021. On 5 September 2021, Chow Hang-tung and three other Standing Committee members of the Alliance held a public press conference and announced that they would not comply with the notice. Chow Hang-tung stated that the Alliance is not an agent of any government or State interests. Instead, she stated that the Alliance is “an agent of the Hong Kong people’s conscience” in its mission to advocate for democratic reforms and accountability for human rights violations. The Alliance also announced it would orgnaise an extraordinary General Assembly of its members on 25 September 2021 to decide whether the Alliance should disband in the face of increasing government pressure and threats.

On 7 September 2021, Chow Hang-tung and other Standing Committee members went to the Hong Kong Police Headquarters and submitted their response in writing. The response stressed that the police have failed to provide any evidence in the notice to substantiate the “foreign agent” allegation, failed to demonstrate how serving such a notice to the Alliance is “necesary” to prevent and investigate national security crimes, and failed to establish credible connections between the information requested and the nature of the national security crimes supposedly under investigation.

In 2020, UN human rights experts raised serious concerns about the Hong Kong national security law before and after its adoption. They said the law “lacks precision in key respects, infringes on certain fundamental rights and may not meet the required thresholds of necessity, proportionality and non-discrimination under international law.”

Front Line Defenders believes the Hong Kong national security law, including the implementation rules of its article 43, is abusive and is designed to be and has been used as a tool to threaten and punish human rights defenders and dissenting voices. It reminds the Hong Kong government of its legal obligations under domestic human rights legislation and the International Covenant on Civil and Poltical Rights (ICCPR) to respect all human rights, including the rights to privacy and to freedom of association, which “not only includes the ability...to form and join an association but also to seek, receive and use resources–human, material and financial–from domestic, foreign, and international sources.”

The use of the national security law and other restrictive laws to target human rights defenders has created and deepened a climate of fear among civil society, contributing to self-censorship, scaling down of programmes, resignation of staff members, and dissolution of entire organisations. In August 2021, the Professional Teachers’ Union and the Civil Human Rights Front, two of Hong Kong’s most influential civil society groups, disbanded in the face of political pressure, smear attacks by State media both in Hong Kong and in mainland China, and threats of legal actions by government officials.

Front Line Defenders believes Chow Hang-tung’s and other Alliance members’ arrests are a reprisal for their peaceful and legitimate work of promoting and defending human rights in both Hong Kong and mainland China, as well as exercising of their freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.