The Hong Kong group of activists that galvanized protesters amid months of political upheaval in 2019 is disbanding, the group said Sunday.
The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), which was established in 2002 with an aim of giving a platform to different organizations to promote the development of human rights in Hong Kong, said it could no longer operate. Its end marks another blow for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
The decision comes as the group faces a police investigation for possible violation of a national security law, according to local media.
The legislation introduced in 2020 makes it easier to punish protesters and reduces the Hong Kong's autonomy.
Who are the CHRF and what does this mean for Hong Kong?
The CHRF is the largest protest organization to disband in Hong Kong amid a sweeping crackdown from Beijing on dissent.
The group's decision casts a shadow over the future of the July 1 protest that, since 2003, has marked the 1997 handover of the former British colony to China. The annual protest organized by the CHRF traditionally sees thousands of people taking to the streets to vent their frustration over anything from rocketing house prices to government dissatisfaction.
But it was the anti-extradition bill protest on June 16, 2019, that propelled the group to another level, breaking the record for Hong Kong's largest ever demonstration with nearly two million participants.
Former CHRF leaders Figo Chan and Jimmy Sham are currently serving prison sentence on charges related to their activism.
"Although the Civil Human Rights Front no longer exists today, we believe that different groups will continue to stick to their ideals, who will not forget their original intentions, and continue to prop up civil society," the group said in a statement.
Alleged crimes 'not wiped out'
The CHRF's decision to disband will not absolve the group from its alleged wrongdoing, authorities said Sunday.
Police in April accused the group of breaching the Societies Ordinance and asked it to submit information regarding its finances and activities.
"The police reiterated that for crimes committed by an organization and its members, the criminal responsibility will not be wiped out due to the disbandment or resignation of the members," police said in a statement, adding they will continue to pursue any organization or person for violations of the Hong Kong National Security Law.
In recent years, China has been turning the screw on the semi-autonomous region; The national security law, which outlaws secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion, has been used to arrest more than 100 pro-democracy figures.
The closure of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and this week's disbanding of the Professional Teachers' Union, provide further evidence of dwindling levels of democracy in the region.
jsi/dj (AP, Reuters)