Police in Hong Kong arrested four members of the Hong Kong Alliance group, which had organized Tiananmen Square vigils in the city, a day after they refused to cooperate with a national security investigation.
Among those arrested were vice-chairwoman of the alliance Chow Hang-tung, as well as Simon Leung, Sean Tang and Chan To-wai. The group is one among several organizations currently being investigated by Hong Kong's new national security unit.
"I want to tell Hong Kongers that we need to continue to resist, don’t surrender to the unreasonable power quickly and easily," Chow had told reporters on Tuesday.
Chow Hang-tung is a prominent lawyer who was supposed to represent detained opposition politician Gwyneth Ho at a bail hearing on the same day.
Accused of being a 'foreign agent'
The organization had been accused of working as a "foreign agent," and authorities had asked for its operational and financial information, including personal details of all members since its foundation in 1989. Authorities had also demanded the minutes of all meetings, and details of exchanges with other nongovernmental organizations advocating for democracy and human rights in China.
The alliance had denied all accusations of wrongdoing. They could face a fine of HK $100,000 (roughly €11,000 or US $13,000) and six months in prison for failing to provide the information.
Tuesday was the deadline for the request. Members of the alliance handed in a letter to the police saying the request was illegal and arbitrary, since no evidence of wrongdoing had been presented.
"Any law enforcement actions taken by the law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law," the security police had said.
China has cracked down on the pro-democracy movement and free speech since imposing the controversial national security law on Hong Kong from Beijing, after it failed to clear the port city's own legislature.
In August, a new censorship law was introduced, where films that have already been released will be scrutinized for content breaching the "national security law."
Activists have lamented worsening conditions around freedom of speech and crackdown on dissent in the special administrative region of China since imposition of the national security law.
tg/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)