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Hong Kong Police Order Tiananmen Vigil Organizers to Take Down Online Content

By Poon Ka Ching 2021-09-16 -- Hong Kong's national security police have ordered the organizers of a now-banned candlelight vigil for the victims of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen massacre to delete all of their online posts, the group said via its Facebook page on Thursday.

The Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China said it would comply with a national security police demand to remove all content from its website and social media accounts under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

"[We] received a letter from the police commissioner on Sept. 10 saying ... that implementation rules provide for the removal of specified messages from electronic platforms within seven days of receipt of notification," the Alliance said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

"[We] will remove all posts from our website, Facebook, and other specified electronic platforms by 10.00 pm tonight," it said.

The organization has been charged alongside three of its former leaders -- Lee Cheuk-yan, 64, Albert Ho, 69, and Chow Hang-tung, 36 -- with "incitement to subvert state power" under the national security law.

Chow was arrested on Sept. 8 and denied bail, while Lee and Ho are already serving jail terms linked to their activism.

Four other Alliance members, Tang Ngok-kwan, 53, Simon Leung, 36, Chan To-wai, 57, and Tsui Hon-kwong, 72, have been charged with "failure to comply with a notice to provide information."

The group refused to provide detailed information on its members, activities, and funding sources to national security police, arguing that it isn't an agent of a foreign government, and therefore isn't bound by that part of the national security law.

"By arresting vigil organizers, Beijing and Hong Kong authorities are telling the world they're not only afraid of the most peaceful protests, but also of their own brutal past," Human Rights Watch (HRW) China director Sophie Richardson said in a statement posted on the HRW website and signed by dozens of rights groups.

"They should end this political persecution and immediately drop the charges and release the vigil organizers," she said.

Call for targeted sanctions

The statement, signed by the U.S.-based Hong Kong Democracy Council, the Christian rights group ChinaAid, Humanitarian China and the U.K.-based Hong Kong Watch, among others, called on concerned governments to impose "coordinated, targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes," on Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, police chief Raymond Siu, secretary for security Chris Tang, and other officials linked to the operation targeting the Alliance.

"Hong Kong and mainland authorities should not be able to ban commemorations, shutter museums, and jail peaceful critics without paying a price," Citizen Power founder and veteran dissident Jianli Yang said.

"Governments appalled by the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Hong Kong should make their opposition felt," Yang said.

The takedown order came as seven pro-democracy District Council members were stripped of their seats after their oaths were judged insufficient to prove their loyalty to Hong Kong and China.

Clarisse Yeung, Leung Pak-kin, Wei Siu-lik, So Yat-hang, Chan Wing-tai, Lai Tsz-yan, and Michael Pang were stripped of their council seats on Sept. 15, five days after they pledged allegiance at a ceremony for Hong Kong Island councilors.

"As the oath administrator had questions about the validity of the oaths taken by ... seven District Council members, letters were issued to the ... members concerned on Sept. 10 to require them to provide additional information," the government said in a statement announcing the disqualifications.

"After considering the written replies ... and all relevant information, the oath administrator ... determined that the oaths taken by seven District Council members were invalid," it said.

The councilors were removed from office with immediate effect.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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