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Hong Kong orders Tiananmen vigil group to delete websites

September 16, 2021

Organizers of the annual vigil say national security police ordered them to delete their online presence. Beijing is increasingly cracking down on dissenting social media accounts in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China Vice Chairperson Chow Hang-tung, left, stands in front of the "Pillar of Shame" statue
The Hong Kong Alliance is the latest opposition group to be targeted by the national security lawImage: Kin Cheung/AP/picture alliance

A prominent pro-democracy organization in Hong Kong said on Thursday they will take down all their social media posts after receiving orders to erase posts from their website, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Activists from the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, known as the HK Alliance, said they had received a seven-day notice by the Hong Kong police commissioner last Friday.

What is the state of internet freedom in Hong Kong?

In recent months, Chinese mainland-style internet restrictions have become more commonplace in Hong Kong.

While Hong Kong maintains open access to the internet, authorities are cracking down on dissidents under China's controversial national security law passed in June 2020.

The HK Alliance is the latest activist group to be targeted by the law, which was passed by Beijing following violent pro-democracy protests in the city.

The law claims to target subversion, secession, terrorism, and foreign collusion, with tough sentences that include life in prison. But the international community has condemned its application to suppress rights. Under the law, police can also issue "takedown notices" for websites and social media pages. 

The alliance activists said they were given till 10 pm (1500 GMT) on September 16 to comply with the notice and linked a new Facebook page for their followers.

What is the HK Alliance?

Since 1990, the group has organized annual vigils commemorating the Tiananmen Massacre. In the past two years, police have banned the public candlelight event, citing COVID risks.

Activists were placed under scrutiny after the police accused the group members of being "foreign agents." The group denies the accusations.

On Wednesday, nine veteran activists — including five who are already in jail on protest-related charges  — were given a sentence for taking part in an outlawed vigil for the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The alliance has already created a digital archive of its Tiananmen museum with the help of activists abroad to preserve its archives in the event of persecution. 

Detained pro-democracy activists are routinely ordered by courts to halt online posts as part of their bail conditions.

go/wd, rt (AFP, dpa)