Hong Kong police are reportedly investigating the group that organizes an annual protest march marking the territory’s handover to China for possible contravention of the territory’s National Security Law.
Police are gathering evidence and could take action against the Civil Human Rights Front, which holds the July 1 march each year and also organized some of the bigger political protests that roiled the territory in 2019, Hong Kong Police Commissioner Raymond Siu Chak-yee (蕭澤頤) told the Ta Kung Pao daily in an interview published on Friday.
Siu told the newspaper that the group never formally registered with the government nor the police since it was established in 2002.
“Anyone who violates the law, they better not think they can escape,” Siu was quoted as saying.
A spokesperson for the Hong Kong Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The group would be the latest target of a sweeping crackdown on dissent that has followed Beijing’s imposition of the National Security Law on the territory last year.
The legislation outlaws secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion, and has been used to arrest more than 100 pro-democracy figures since it was implemented a year ago, as well as the closure of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily.
The crackdown has virtually silenced opposition voices in the territory — and drawn sanctions from the US against Hong Kong and Chinese government officials.
The South China Morning Post newspaper on Friday reported that the Civil Human Rights Front had decided to disband, but did not publicly announce the decision.
The group did not respond to requests for comment, while a public e-mail for the group returned an error message.
The group organized massive protests in June 2019 against a since-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed suspects in Hong Kong to stand trial in mainland China, where the judicial system is opaque.
Since the National Security Law was enacted, many unions, associations and political organizations have disbanded amid concerns that the law could be used to target them.
The territory’s largest teachers’ union — widely seen as pro-democracy — disbanded earlier this week, citing drastic changes in the political landscape.
Siu said in the interview that the Civil Human Rights Front had held multiple rallies in the past year that possibly contravened the security law, even as authorities previously said that the law was not retroactive.
The organization was previously targeted in a police probe in April over the legality of their operations.
Some of the most prominent members of the Civil Human Rights Front, including former leaders Figo Chan (陳皓桓) and Jimmy Sham (岑子杰), are in jail on charges related to their advocacy.
Chan was convicted of organizing an unauthorized assembly, while Sham has been remanded in custody since March over his involvement in an unofficial primary election last year that the authorities say was part of a plot to paralyze the government.
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