Chinese Pressure Forces Group Behind 2019 Hong Kong Protests to Disband

People listen to speeches during an event put on by the Civil Human Rights Front in Hong Kong on June 23, 2019, calling for police accountability for the excessive force used during the June 12 protest. - Hong Kong police on June 22 vowed to pursue the ringleaders of a …
ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP via Getty Images

The Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) of Hong Kong withdrew from the Civil Human Rights Front on Sunday, followed the next day by the Hong Kong Democratic Party, the city’s largest opposition party.

These actions came after a string of smaller departures and appeared to mark the unraveling of the group that organized the massive demonstrations of 2019.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Monday reported the collapse of the Civil Human Rights Front began after media reports that Hong Kong’s Beijing-controlled government was investigating “allegations the front was being supported by a Washington-based NGO that was under Beijing sanctions,” namely the National Endowment for Democracy.

According to these reports, the National Endowment for Democracy allegedly provided financial assistance to the Civil Human Rights Front to organize protests in 2019, and such assistance can now be prosecuted as “collusion with foreign forces” – an offense on par with material support for terrorism – under the draconian “national security law” Beijing imposed on Hong Kong last June.

The 19-year-old Civil Human Rights Front counted at least 40 member organizations at its height, including every major pro-democracy group in the city. Those members began peeling away over the past few days because they fear the iron-fisted national security law could be employed to indict them as accessories to treason, a menace underscored by the arrest of 47 anti-government activists in February.

The PTU and some other departing groups vaguely stated they were withdrawing support for the Civil Human Rights Front due to the “recent political situation.” Others did not explain their decision to withdraw at all.

China’s state-run Global Times hinted on Monday the Front could soon be banned under the national security law, gleefully quoting political activists who understood the message that dissent is no longer tolerated in Hong Kong:

Bill Lay Yan-pau, vice Chairman of the Civic Party, said that the Civic Party is currently suffering heavy losses and many party members are in jail. “The Civic Party needs to face the reality and risks, and has the responsibility to protect party members.” 

He said that because of the implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong and the effects of the epidemic, there is no room for the Civil Human Rights Front to hold activities. Many activities were classified as illegal, which has violated the purpose of the Civil Human Rights Front to organize legal events. 

The Global Times counted at least 15 members who have announced their withdrawal from the Front, plus another six who seem likely to pull out. 

The Chinese Communist paper portrayed the Civil Human Rights Front as a threat to Hong Kong’s “one party, two systems” relationship with Beijing and urged the Hong Kong government to finish the job of breaking up the Front under the principle of “patriots government Hong Kong,” China’s euphemism for the ugly totalitarian “reforms” it is currently imposing.

“Some Hong Kong media outlets have said bluntly that facts have proven again that the Civil Human Rights Front is not a platform for Hong Kong citizens to express their views, but an evil political organization that instigates violence. It is not only responsible for the riots in Hong Kong, but also one of the major causes for the destruction of the rule of law and social unrest in Hong Kong by creating violent conflicts,” the Global Times asserted.

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