Shanghai, China, Aug 15 (EFE).- The pro-democracy Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), an organization that called some of the biggest protests in the history of Hong Kong, announced Sunday it has disbanded following pressure from the authorities.
“Unfortunately, for the past year or so, the government repeatedly used the pandemic as a pretext to reject the Front and other organizations’ applications to hold rallies,” its statement said, according to public broadcaster RTHK.
“Our member groups were suppressed, and civil society is facing unprecedented challenges.”
CHRF said it “wanted to maintain its original operations” but that it “has no choice but to disband” because its convenor Figo Chan was imprisoned and, in addition, “the Secretariat can no longer operate, and since no one had indicated they will take over.”
On Friday, representatives of its member groups held a meeting and came to the decision announced Saturday, and also approved the donation of around HK$1.6 million ($206,000) in assets to appropriate organizations.
After its founding in 2002, the Front organized some of the largest demonstrations in the city, including annually on July 1 – the date of the British handover to China in 1997 – and others in the framework of the anti-government protest movement of the second half of 2019.
Contrary to other demonstrations of the 2019 movement, in which there were clashes with the police, the marches called by the CHRF on many occasions had a very high number of participants – in some cases exceeding 1 million, according to their figures – and were generally carried out peacefully.
These protests “allowed the world to see Hong Kong, allowed light to shine through darkness, and had sewn the seed of democracy and freedom in people’s hearts,” the group said Saturday.
However, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, local authorities have refused to authorize this type of demonstration, relying on local regulations for the prevention and control of infections.
Most of the more than 40 groups that made up the CHRF abandoned it after Beijing imposed a controversial national security law on Hong Kong last year that includes penalties of up to life imprisonment for cases such as secession or collusion with foreign forces.
One of the associations that made up the platform, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union – the largest of a single profession in Hong Kong – also announced its dissolution Tuesday, citing “enormous pressure” amid radical social and political changes.
In addition, CHRF convenor Chan was sentenced to 18 months in prison in May for an unauthorized protest in 2019.
In April the police opened an investigation into the financing of the Front, which they accused of not having registered in accordance with local regulations, although the results of these investigations have not been published.
Although the authorities have reiterated that the national security law would not be applied retroactively, Hong Kong Police Chief Raymond Siu said last week that evidence had been collected against “illegal groups” and that the CHRF could have violated it by “organizing a series of large-scale, illegal protests” in recent years. EFE