Hong Kong police seize secretary of aid fund for democracy protesters

Sze Ching-wee and other pro-democracy figures had just stood trial over setting up of now-disbanded 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund

The secretary of a disbanded Hong Kong humanitarian fund set up to help people involved in the 2019 anti-government protests has been arrested on national security charges, Hong Kong media has reported.

Sze Ching-wee, the secretary of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, was seized by national security police at Hong Kong airport on Saturday on the charge of “collusion with foreign or overseas forces to endanger national security”, the public broadcaster RTHK quoted police sources as saying. The charge carries a punishment of between three and 10 years in jail, or in “serious cases” over 10 years’ imprisonment. Police said the 38-year-old was released on bail.

Sze’s arrest came at the end of a trial in which he and five pro-democracy campaigners, including 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, were accused of failing to properly register the fund under the societies ordinance, a colonial-era law from 1911.

A few hours before he was arrested, his lawyer had argued in court that Sze should not be held responsible because unlike other defendants, Sze was not a trustee but only a contractor hired to manage the fund, independent news portal The Witness reported.

All pleaded not guilty to the offence. The verdict is due on 25 November.

The five trustees – Zen, the barrister Margaret Ng, the scholar Hui Po-keung, the pop singer Denise Ho and the former lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan – were originally arrested in mid-May for “colluding with foreign forces” under a national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong to crack down on dissent. Hui, a professor of cultural Studies, was also arrested at the airport at the time while on his way to Europe for an academic post.

Founded in 2019 by prominent pro-democracy campaigners, the fund provided legal and financial aid to people arrested, attacked or injured during the protests. It disbanded in 2021 after police ordered it to hand over information on its donors and beneficiaries.

China responded to the mass 2019 protests in Hong Kong with a sweeping crackdown on dissent. Under the national security law, most of the city’s outspoken pro-democracy activists are now either in jail or have fled overseas, while dozens of civil society groups have closed down under pressure.

Contributor

Verna Yu

The GuardianTramp

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