Hong Kong Leader Says Groups Should Stay Out of Politics
(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s leader said the city will cut ties with any group that gets involved in politics, as authorities in the Asian financial hub ramp up pressure on civil society organizations critical of the government.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a regular press briefing Tuesday that she supported the existence of a “pluralistic society” but that several organizations and individuals have crossed “red lines” and put at risk China’s national security.
“These organizations and units can operate without endangering national security,” she said. “But if we are aware that any of these organizations have deviated from their mission -- say a professional organization doing something political instead of something related to their profession -- the only choice we have is to terminate our relationship with them.”
Her comments come after Hong Kong authorities and pro-China media outlets stepped up pressure on civic groups in the city that have criticized the government or supported unprecedented anti-China protests in 2019. Several groups have either seen resignations of senior staff or have ceased operations after being threatened with criminal investigations under Hong Kong’s national security law.
In recent weeks, both the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, the city’s largest such union with about 100,000 members, and the Civil Human Rights Front, the organizer of some of the largest demonstrations, have disbanded. Many other groups split up after Beijing imposed the national security legislation on the city in late June 2020, which also led to many political activists fleeing overseas.
On Tuesday, Lam said that groups who cease operations after crossing the government’s “red lines” on national security could still be investigated by police.
“As the head of law enforcement agencies said, disbandment on their own volition, of an organization that crossed red lines, does not absolve them of their criminal responsibility,” she said.
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