Organiser of Hong Kong Tiananmen anniversary rally investigated by national security police

Pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-yan speaks to media as he arrives at the West Kowloon Courts for sentence in landmark unlawful assembly case, in Hong Kong, China April 16, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG, Aug 26 (Reuters) - The pro-democracy group that organises Hong Kong's annual June 4 rally to commemorate those who died in the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 is being investigated by national security police on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces.

Police sent a letter to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China requesting information about its membership, finances and activities by Sept. 7, according to a copy the group sent to reporters.

Similar letters were sent to several individuals and associations that are members of the alliance, the group said.

Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letters accused the alliance of being "an agent of foreign forces". Failure to provide the information by the deadline could result in a HK$100,000 fine and six months in jail, the letter said.

The group said in July that it had laid off staff members to ensure their safety and that half of its committee members had resigned.

"It's ridiculous that the police accused the alliance of being an agent of foreign forces," alliance vice-chairwoman Chow Hang Tung told Reuters. "It has nothing to do with any foreign agents nor has it received any instructions from foreign countries."

Alliance leaders Albert Ho and Lee Cheuk-yan are already in jail over their roles in anti-government protests that roiled the city in 2019.

The investigation comes days after Civil Human rights Front (CHRF), the group that organises Hong Kong's annual July 1 rally and galvanized millions to take part in street protests in 2019, disbanded after it was investigated by police. read more

It also marks the latest blow to the opposition movement, which has come under immense pressure since Beijing imposed a national security law last year that punishes broadly defined crimes such as collusion with up to life in prison.

Since then, scores of opposition politicians and activists have been arrested, jailed or fled into exile. Civil society groups have also disbanded, including the Professional Teachers' Union, after it was criticised by Chinese state media.

Critics of the law say it is being used to crush dissent, an assertion authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong reject.

News of the police inquiry casts a shadow over the future of the June 4 rally in Hong Kong, where thousands of people gather to light candles for the pro-democracy demonstrators killed by Chinese troops in Beijing.

Authorities banned it this year, citing coronavirus restrictions, and deployed thousands of police across the city to prevent people gathering.

Reporting By Jessie Pang; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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