CHINA / POLITICS
HK Civil Human Rights Front is disbanding amid probe into sources of funding
Published: Mar 15, 2021 09:03 PM
Several opposition groups have announced their withdrawal from the Civil Human Rights Front in the past few days after foreign media quoted sources as saying that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government is investigating whether the Civil Human Rights Front has violated the national security law for Hong Kong, including whether it accepts funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). If the violation of law is confirmed,the Civil Human Rights Front may be banned. 

People in Hong Kong show their support to the government by holding up their phone screens displaying the Chinese national flag in a flash mob in September 2019. Photo: AFP

People in Hong Kong show their support to the government by holding up their phone screens displaying the Chinese national flag in a flash mob in September 2019. Photo: AFP



Disbanding



The Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood on March 13 announced that it would not participate in the work of the Civil Human Rights Front given the current political atmosphere, according to the report of Oriental Daily News on March 14.

Several organizations in Hong Kong including the Neighborhood and Worker's Service Centre, Civic Party, Neo Democrats, Justice & Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, and the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, have publicly announced quitting the conferences and work of the Civil Human Rights Front.

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. 

Figo Chan Ho-wun, the convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, has admitted that six or seven groups had withdrawn. 

However, according to Sing Tao Daily on March 14, a person from the Civil Human Rights Front secretariat who did not want to be named stated that in addition to the disbanded Power for Democracy, New School for Democracy that planned to withdraw and those that have publicly stated that they would withdraw, another 15 institutions and organizations have actually withdrawn from the Civil Human Rights Front, including the Student Christian Movement and The Student Union of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. If this news is true, the Civil Human Rights Front would have at least 21 organizations quitting among its 43 member organizations.

Chen Manqi, chairman of the Hong Kong Chinese Lawyers Association, said that the leaders of the "lam chau group" realized that the past actions of the Civil Human Rights Front were likely to involve violations of the law, so they "jumped ship." "Lam chau," which roughly means "self-destruct together," has become a commonly used slogan among anti-government groups in Hong Kong to pursue their radical political goals. 

Based on the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong," the SAR government should take the initiative to follow up on the incident.

A cause for riots

The anti-government group Civil Human Rights Front (Civil Human Rights Front), founded in September 2002, claimed to be a joint platform that focuses on Hong Kong politics and civil rights issues. But in reality, it has been a platform for "lam chau" activists which has gathered almost all opposition members, with more than 60 anti-government groups at its peak.    

The initial formation of Civil Human Rights Front was to focus on the legislative work of Article 23 of the Basic Law. In September 2002, the Hong Kong Security Bureau published proposals to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law. 

In 2003, when the SARS epidemic faded away, the Civil Human Rights Front organized the July 1 protest against the Article 23 legislation, which led the HKSAR government to announce an indefinite postponement of the submission of the draft for the second reading in July. 

Since then, the Civil Human Rights Front has instigated the protest every year, attacking "one country, two systems" and the governance of the SAR government. 

From 2004 to 2007, the Civil Human Rights Front continually instigated the public to demand so-called "dual universal suffrage," and the opposition began to take the realization of "dual universal suffrage" as the ultimate goal of an "anti-Chinese government."

In 2012, Civil Human Rights Front members launched an anti-national education campaign, inciting the academic community to participate in the strike, forcing the SAR government to withdraw its decision to establish a Moral and National Education. It is a profound disaster for Hong Kong society because some students who have no comprehension of the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong's history finally went on the pathway of the illegal "Occupy Central" protest and inciting violence. 

In 2014, after the "July 1 protest" initiated by the Civil Human Rights Front, its member groups staged a sit-in in Central on the same day to "rehearse Occupy Central", which also became the beginning of the 79-day-long illegal "Occupy Central" protest. 

Since then, Civil Human Rights Front has gone further on the road of this "violent protest." On June 9, 2019, Hong Kong's first large-scale demonstration over the now-withdrawn extradition bill was initiated by the Civil Human Rights Front, which later turned into a riot, with rioters storming the Legislative Council building and clashing with police. 

Rioters break items during a protest in September 2019 in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

Rioters break items during a protest in September 2019 in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP



During the whole process of social unrest in Hong Kong triggered by the now-withdrawn extradition bill,  the Civil Human Rights Front had served as a platform for "lam chau" rioters to engage in radical activities, paving the way for black-clad rioters and separatists to stage rallies and demonstrations, which eventually evolved into a large-scale riot.

During this year's New Year's Day holiday, demonstrations, instigated by the Civil Human Rights Front once again saw black-clad thugs vandalizing, blocking roads, and setting fires as they did in 2019's protest. 

Many of the Civil Human Rights Front group leaders have been charged with "conspiracy to subvert state power" for attempting to paralyze the SAR government.

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.

Illegal organization

It's worth noting that the Civil Human Rights Front has been an illegal organization since its inception. Singapore-based Lianhe Zaobao reported that the Civil Human Rights Front has never registered with the Hong Kong SAR government, and may be in breach of the Societies Ordinance. The organization is also not on the Hong Kong Police Force's list of societies and branches registered or exempted from registration, according to media reports.

The Societies Ordinance stipulates that a local society shall apply in the specified form to the Societies Officer for registration or exemption from registration within one month of its establishment or deemed establishment. If found guilty, the Civil Human Rights Front leaders could face imprisonment for up to three months.

According to the Lianhe Zaobao, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has sponsored a protest organized by the Civil Human Rights Front, which is under investigation. If it is confirmed, the Civil Human Rights Front will be banned for violating the national security law of Hong Kong. NED, found in 1983, is known as the "shadow CIA" which is funded by the US government.  

While the Civil Human Rights Front claimed that it has never received any financial support from foreign governments or institutions since its establishment, and has always relied on donations from citizens to fund its operations, the truth is the opposite. The NED and its affiliated National Democratic Institute (NDI) have close ties to the Civil Human Rights Front. 

A paper published by Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity revealed that the NED sponsored many organizations that participated in the anti-extradition bill protests in Hong Kong. The NED once donated a grand sum of $200,000 to NDI for activities in Hong Kong, and $90,000 to HKHRM (Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor), which is not itself a branch of NED but a "partner" in Hong Kong. Between 1995 and 2013, HKHRM received more than $1.9 million in funds from the NED. Through its branches, NED has been closely linked to other groups in Hong Kong including the Civic Party, the Labor Party, and the Hong Kong Democratic Party.

The Taiwan secessionist forces are another donor to the Civil Human Rights Front behind the scenes. Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front once thanked three "Taiwan independence" organizations. The Taiwan secessionist forces also paid for him to make a short film, and spread it on video websites and social media platforms, attacking the "one country, two systems" principle. In addition, colluding with infamous Hong Kong secessionist Jimmy Lai Chee-ying is another major channel for the organization to obtain financial aid.

Hong Kong residents sign in favor of improving the electoral system in Hong Kong on March 11. Photo: AFP

Hong Kong residents sign in favor of improving the electoral system in Hong Kong on March 11. Photo: AFP



Call to ban the organization

Article 29 of the national security law for Hong Kong stipulates that it is an offense if a person engages in activities such as requesting, conspiring with, receiving instructions, etc. from a foreign country or external element to commit specific acts which are explicitly set out in Article 29, which include provoking hatred among Hong Kong residents by unlawful means or toward the Central People's Government or the HKSAR government which is likely to cause serious consequences.

Analysts pointed out that if the Civil Human Rights Front receives donations from unknown sources, the law enforcement authorities may prompt or notify the bank concerned to freeze its account. This is the reason why other organizations like the Civic Party chose to exit from the Civil Human Rights Front because they are worried they will be embroiled when the funding of the Civil Human Rights Front is investigated.

Elizabeth Quat, a lawmaker with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said that a majority of the protests by the Civil Human Rights Front have turned into smashing and burning riots, raising questions about foreign involvement. The fact that many anti-government groups are cutting ties with the Civil Human Rights Front further reflects that this incident is unusual. In the case of safeguarding national security, the relevant departments should investigate as soon as possible.

Eunice Yung Hoi-yan, a legislative councilor and barrister, said this incident reflects the success of the national security law in dismantling forces behind the unrest in Hong Kong. After the implementation of the national security law, "lam chau" groups realized that staying in the Civil Human Rights Front has no good outcomes and the organization's past behaviors might break the law, so they pulled out. But this makes people further question whether they are collaborating with foreign forces in endangering national security, and even receive funding from those forces, which requires further investigation.

According to media reports, the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, and Hong Kong Journalists Association have all cooperated with the NED and received funding from it. All three organizations are members of the Civil Human Rights Front. The SAR government is conducting investigations now. If it is confirmed that the Civil Human Rights Front has received fundings from foreign countries, it must be banned.


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