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In a Major Blow to Hong Kong’s Pro-democracy Movement, ‘The Alliance’ Votes to Disband

Published: September 25, 2021
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China standing committee members (from L-R) Tang Ngok-kwan, Chow Hang-tung, Simon Leung Kam-wai and Tsui Hon-kwong attend a press conference at the June 4th Museum in Hong Kong on September 5, 2021, announcing they will not submit any documents to the police's National Security Department and to hold an upcoming meeting to vote on dissolution. (Image: BERTHA WANG/AFP via Getty Images)

The group responsible for the annual Tiananmen Square Massacre vigil has voted to disband at a special meeting on Saturday Sept. 25 after 32 years in operation, following months of sustained pressure by Chinese authorities and the arrest of the group’s leadership, The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) has reported. 

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (The Alliance) was founded in 1989 in the wake of the Tiananmen Square Massacre that many claim resulted in upwards of 3,000 lives lost; most of them students. 

At Saturday’s vote, 41 members voted in favor of disbanding while four voted against. 

Company Secretary of The Alliance, Richard Tsoi, told reporters after the meeting that, “I do believe Hong Kong people, no matter in [an] individual capacity or other capacities, will continue commemorating June 4th as before.” adding that he will visit the grave of Alliance Founder, Szeto Wah. 

“I believe that [Szeto] was a principled person, and also someone who valued the group’s safety and how to advance and retreat depending on the political environment,” Tsoi said.

Szeto, born in 1931, was a prominent Hong Kong democracy activist and politician. Not only was he the founding chairman of The Alliance but was also a founding member of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union and a former member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong from 1985 to 1997 and from 1997 to 2004. 

Leadership arrested

On the morning of Wednesday Sept. 8, four leaders of the pro-democracy group were arrested by Hong Kong authorities who alleged the group was working as a “foreign agent.”

The four arrested included the vice chairwoman and barrister Chow Hang-tung and standing committee members Leung Kam-wai, Tang Ngok-kwan and Chan Dor-wai.

The arrests came after the group declined to follow a demand by the Hong Kong police to hand over membership and financial information concerning The Alliance.  

At the time, Chris Tang, the Secretary for Security in Hong Kong, said that if someone fails to hand over information required by the Hong Kong police that swift law enforcement action would be taken.

A history of service to Hong Kong

Following the 1989 crackdown on students, The Alliance provided shelter and financial assistance to fleeing student leaders. It also worked with survivors and relatives of victims.

The group has organized the annual vigil every year since. 

To commemorate the victims of the massacre the group opened the Tiananmen Massacre museum in 2014 shortly after the 25th anniversary of the incident. 

The physical museum was closed on June 2, 2021 due to an investigation by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department into its licensing but was later reopened online as the “8964 Museum.” 

In mid-September, Hong Kong authorities, wielding the contentious National Security Law (NSL), ordered The Alliance to remove all online posts associated with the now-banned annual candlelight vigil.

The Alliance complied stating in a Facebook post that, “[We] will remove all posts from our website, Facebook, and other specified electronic platforms by 10.00 pm tonight.”

The Alliance is the latest pro-democracy group to disband in the face of mounting pressure by Hong Kong authorities. 

The Civil Human Rights Front, citing pressure from the authorities, recently seized operations and, just three days later, Hong Kong’s largest teachers’ union announced it would also fold.

Yamini Mishra of Amnesty International, in response to The Alliance’s disbandment said, “For 32 years, the Chinese government has sought to censor all mention of the Tiananmen crackdown on the mainland. The effectively forced disbandment of the Hong Kong Alliance is the latest signal that authorities in Hong Kong are keen to do the same.”