10 arrested in Hong Kong over legal aid fund for 2019 protesters

Beijing, Aug 10 (EFE).- The Hong Kong police Thursday said they had arrested ten suspects linked to the now-defunct protester relief fund set up to help people involved in the 2019 anti-government protests.

A police statement said the detained six women and four men, aged between 26 and 43, allegedly worked with the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund “to receive donations from various overseas organizations to support people who have fled overseas or organizations which called for sanctions against Hong Kong.”

The statement said they were being question for suspected “conspiracy to collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.”

Police searched residences and offices of the arrested suspects and seized “documents and electronic communication devices,” the statement said.

The arrested people were detained for further enquiries, and the police did not rule out the possibility of more arrests.

The National Security Law, imposed by Beijing after the massive anti-government demonstrations gripping the former British colony in 2019, provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment for “secession” or “collusion with foreign forces.”

Police arrested Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, and four other activist-trustees in November for failing to register the legal defense fund, created in June 2019 and ending its operations at in October 2021.

The five were found guilty of failing to register the fund as a society and were each fined HK$4,000.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the fund received up to 270 million Hong Kong dollars ($34.3 million) from 103,000 transactions and part of the money was used for political activities.

The 2019 protests were partly weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic, but China completely curbed the pro-democracy demonstrations with the National Security Law, forcing some prominent activists into exile or behind bars.

In his speech at the anniversary of Hong Kong’s “return” to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, chief executive John Lee warned that the former colony must remain “on guard” against any “soft resistance” that could threaten the national security. EFE


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