Hong Kong Rights Lawyers Concern Group Disbands After Police Letter

The group says it has already begun 'voluntary liquidation,' the latest in a line of civil society groups to dissolve after political denunciation and police investigation.

Hong Kong Rights Lawyers Concern Group Disbands After Police Letter

A Hong Kong group that once campaigned for China's embattled human rights lawyers announced on Tuesday it would disband after being investigated by national security police under a city-wide crackdown on public dissent and peaceful opposition.

The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (CHRLCG) said in a statement on its website that it had received a letter of enquiry from the Hong Kong Police dated Aug. 25, 2021.

"The CHRLCG has decided to dissolve in September 2021 and has already activated the voluntary liquidation procedure," the statement said.

"Directors of the CHRLCG are going to resign from their directorships soon."

The group is the latest in string of civil society groups to disband following investigation by national security police.

The pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) will vote on Oct. 3 on whether to disband after being denounced in the Beijing-backed media, a typical precursor to investigation under the national security law.

The denunciations usually focus on accusations that a given activist group or non-government organization has done something that could be in breach of the law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

Several organizations, including protest march organizers the Civil Human Rights Front, the Professional Teachers' Union, and Wall-fare, a prison support group for those in custody because of the 2019 protest movement, have disbanded following similar articles, or after being criticized by Hong Kong's leaders.

And the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance said it had recently received a letter from the Registry of Trade Unions alleging that its funds were used for "political purposes."

Three are denied bail

The CHRLCG's decision to disband came as three activists linked to the Hong Kong activist group Student Politicism were denied bail on Tuesday following their arrest on subversion charges under a draconian national security law.

West Kowloon Court principal magistrate Don So rejected bail applications from lawyers acting for group convenor Wong Yat-chin, 20, and former members Chan Chi-sum, 20 and Jessica Chu, 18.

The trio embraced each other and cried in court when they heard bail had been denied, with the case adjourned until November following a request from the prosecution.

Judge So said he didn't believe the defendants would refrain from further actions "endangering national security" if they were released, meaning that the trio will now spend the Mid-Autumn Festival in jail instead of with their families.

Wong and Chan said they would reapply every eight days, while Chu waived her right to further bail hearings.

Their supporters also hugged each other, or wiped away tears when the decision was announced, while others chanted "release political prisoners!" and "Inhumane!"

Wong said in a message posted to social media by his lawyer that his fate was perhaps the result of the times Hongkongers are now living through.

"I hope we can all live bravely and openly, so we can face this together," Wong said. "[Let's] face fear, challenge fear, and conquer fear."

He also told people to "take care of themselves" and enjoy the Mid-Autumn Festival.

According to the indictment, Wong, Chan, and Chu conspired with others in Hong Kong to "organize, plan, implement or participate in acts of force, or the threat to use force, or other illegal means to subvert state power, namely, to overthrow or undermine the current political system of the People's Republic of China ... and overthrow the central government or the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government."

Their alleged actions dated from Oct. 25, 2020 to June 16, 2021, it said.

'Subversive acts'

Police had early alleged the trio had carried out "subversive acts" including warning people not to use the government's LeaveHomeSafe COVID-19 tracking app, and "inciting hatred of the government" via street booths.

Meanwhile, the host of an English-language talk show for government broadcaster RTHK was reportedly pulled from the show following an episode focusing on the ongoing crackdown on civil society groups under the national security law.

"Backchat" co-host Hugh Chiverton confirmed to Stand News on Tuesday that he was still at the station, but hasn't been heard on air since the civil society episode, which hasn't yet been uploaded to the archive section of the RTHK website.

The episode had featured former City University politics lecturer and pro-democracy activist Joseph Cheng.

Chiverton referred all queries about the show to RTHK's communications team, who told the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) that it wouldn't comment on "internal editorial matters of individual programmes."

"RTHK reviews the programme content from time to time to ensure compliance with RTHK Charter, the Producers' Guidelines and the Communications Authority's Codes of Practice," it said in a statement posted to Twitter by HKFP.

Chiverton and Koh had earlier interviewed Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam about the national security crackdown, during which Lam warned Koh that she was "treading on dangerous lines" after the host asked her about the government's failure to communicate with protesters during the 2019 anti-extradition movement.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Philippines Throws Support Behind AUKUS Pact

Malaysia and Indonesia have expressed alarm over nuclear submarines operating in regional waters, however.

Philippines Throws Support Behind AUKUS Pact

The Philippines backs a new U.S.-U.K.-Australia defense pact that addresses a military “imbalance” in Southeast Asia, Manila’s top diplomat said Tuesday, in remarks that contrasted sharply with Indonesian and Malaysian concerns about a regional arms race.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. did not name any countries responsible for this so-called imbalance, but he was likely referring to China. Manila and Beijing have had several verbal spats over China’s increased militarization in the South China Sea.

Australia’s neighbors in Southeast Asia “do not possess the military wherewithal to maintain peace and security” in the region, he said in a statement issued to reporters on Tuesday.

“There is an imbalance in the forces available to the ASEAN member states, with the main balancer more than half a world away,” Locsin said of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Locsin again did not name which country he was referring to when he spoke about “the main balancer,” but he likely was alluding to the United States, Manila’s longtime military ally.

“The enhancement of a near abroad ally’s ability to project power should restore and keep the balance rather than destabilize it.”

The trilateral AUKUS pact – which provides Australia with the technology to build nuclear-powered submarines – would also quicken allies’ response time to counter threats in the disputed South China Sea, Locsin said.

“Proximity breeds brevity in response time, thereby enhancing an ASEAN near friend and ally’s military capacity to respond in timely and commensurate fashion to a threat to the region or a challenge to the status quo. This requires enhancing Australia’s ability, added to that of its main military ally, to achieve that calibration,” he said.

The AUKUS pact unveiled last week is thought to be designed to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific, especially in the South China Sea where Beijing has sweeping claims that are disputed by its neighbors.

Last week, Beijing denounced the new trilateral partnership. Its embassy was not immediately available to comment on Tuesday.

‘Weaponry competition between superpowers’

While the Philippines is openly embracing the new defense partnership, some Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia have expressed alarm over nuclear submarines operating in regional waters.

Last Friday, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob received a courtesy call from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who explained the trilateral pact.

Ismail Sabri “expressed concern that such cooperation will trigger competition between countries in the Indo-Pacific region in weaponizing their armory with nuclear weapons,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement the next day.

“Concern [was also raised] on the possibility that it will provoke other powers to act aggressively in the region especially in the South China Sea.”

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said he told his Australian counterpart, Marise Payne, “firmly” that “we did not want to be trapped in the middle of this weaponry competition between superpowers.”

He said the ASEAN secretariat in Jakarta had contacted all foreign ministers after the trilateral pact’s announcement, “and we are in the midst of preparing a joint statement on the issue.”

Similarly, on Monday, the Indonesian navy and coast guard echoed an earlier statement from the country’s foreign ministry.

AUKUS has the potential to increase tensions in the South China Sea that could have an impact on Indonesia, said Adm. Aan Kurnia, head of the coast guard (Bakamla).

“This could signal a potential escalation and we need to clearly understand what the direct and indirect impacts on Indonesia are,” Aan said in a meeting with a parliamentary commission.

“One direct impact of the escalation can be predicted – there will be many large military forces in the SCS.”

The day after the pact was announced, Indonesia’s foreign ministry said it was “very concerned about the continued arms race and projection of military power in the region.”

“Indonesia emphasizes the importance of Australia’s commitment to continue to fulfill its obligations regarding nuclear non-proliferation,” a ministry statement said.

The Philippines’ Locsin, however, said that without the actual presence of nuclear weapons, the AUKUS pact would not violate a 1995 treaty banning arms in the region.

Like the Philippines, ASEAN member Singapore responded positively to AUKUS.

Thailand has not yet issued an official statement on the new pact, but a former Thai foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, told BenarNews last week that the Chinese showed “assertive and aggressive ambition.”

“No one country in the region wants to be under the domination of China, and the U.S. presence is thus a necessity.”

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service. Muzliza Mustafa in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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