71 NGOs and Individuals Sign Open Letter: Stop Prosecution of Tiananmen Vigil Organizer Chow Hang-tung

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July 20, 2020

Ms. Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah

Secretary for Justice

Department of Justice

G/F, Main Wing, 

Justice Place,

18 Lower Albert Road,

Central, Hong Kong

CC: Carrie Lam, Chief Executive 

Re: Prosecution of Tiananmen Vigil Organizer Chow Hang-tung

Dear Secretary Cheng,

We, a group of 71 international non-governmental organizations and individuals, are writing to call on your government to drop the charge of “inciting unauthorized assembly” against Chow Hang-tung (鄒幸彤) and unconditionally release her. Ms. Chow is a barrister and vice president of the civil society group Hong Kong Alliance, which organizes the annual Victoria Park vigil to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. Police arrested Chow on June 4, 2021, released her on bail on June 5, but detained her again on June 30. 

The charge against Chow is based on alleged violations of Hong Kong’s Public Order Ordinance, which requires organizers to notify police of demonstrations in advance, and requires them to get a “notice of no objection” from the police before proceeding. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has criticized the law, saying that “it may facilitate excessive restriction” on basic rights. Human rights organizations have repeatedly urged the Hong Kong government to amend the law because it is incompatible with international standards on freedom of assembly.

The police banned the 2021 vigil on public health grounds, although Hong Kong has kept Covid-19 under control and had few infections at the time. Following the announcement of the ban, Chow wrote an opinion article and a Facebook posturging people to mark the occasion by lighting candles and that she would do so in a public space. There is no basis for interpreting her message as “inciting” people to publicly gather or violate social distancing rules in effect at the time. 

We are also concerned about repeated calls to ban the Hong Kong Alliance by Lu Wenduan (卢文端), vice chairperson of the Chinese Communist Party-controlled All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, and others who often represent the Chinese government’s views and baselessly allege that the Hong Kong Alliance is “subversive,” “colludes with foreign forces,” and violates the National Security Law. Under such pressure and threats of prosecution, the Alliance has terminated its staff and downsized its operations.

As you know, Hong Kong people are entitled to the human rights guarantees enshrined in Hong Kong’s de facto constitution, the Basic Law. Those rights are also guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is incorporated into Hong Kong’s legal framework via the Basic Law and expressed in the Bill of Rights Ordinance. The ICCPR guarantees the rights to freedom of expression, information, association, and peaceful assembly, among other basic liberties. It protects the rights to participate in public affairs, vote at genuine periodic elections, and be a candidate for public office. It also ensures the rights of criminal suspects to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial court. 

That Central Chinese government and Hong Kong officials continue to deny these rights, as reflected in the arbitrary arrest and detention of Chow Hang-tung, undermines your credibility in upholding international legal guarantees, and is unlikely to yield the “stability” you say you want. 

We look forward to receiving your response on this important matter. 


Act with HK

Alvin YH Cheung, Affiliated Scholar, US-Asia Law Institute, New York University

Andréa Worden, Independent Scholar

Article 19

Australia Hong Kong Link

Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales

Canada-Hong Kong Link 

Canadian Friends of Hong Kong 

China Against the Death Penalty 

China Change

China Political Prisoners Concern Group

Chinese Human Rights Defenders

Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers

Core Group for Tibet Cause – India

Covenants Watch

Dawn of Hong Kong

Democracy for Hong Kong (D4HK)

Eva Pils, Professor of Law, Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London

Freedom House

Front Line Defenders 

Gill Boehringer, Professor and former Dean, Macquarie University Law School

Hong Kong Committee in Norway

Hong Kong Democracy Council

Hong Kong Forum, Los Angeles 

Hong Kong Outlanders in Taiwan (臺灣香港邊城青年)

Hong Kong Watch 

Human Rights in China

Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan

Humanitarian China

International Campaign for Tibet 

International Commission of Jurists

International Federation of Journalists

International Service for Human Rights

International Tibet Network 

James D. Seymour, Independent Scholar

Judicial Reform Foundation

Justice Abroad 

Kevin Carrico, Senior Lecturer, Monash University

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada 

Leitner Center for International Law and Justice 

Lhagari Namgyal Dolkar, Tibetan Activist

Martin Flaherty, Professor, Fordham Law, Princeton University

Michael Polak, Barrister, Church Court Chambers

Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers, International Association of People’s Lawyers

National Campaign for Free Tibet Support

Netherlands for Hong Kong

New Yorkers Supporting Hong Kong (NY4HK)

NorCal HK Club

Penghsuan Lee, Taiwanese Activist

Pingtung Bar Association

Richa Guo, Director, New School for Democracy

SERious for HKG

Stand with HK@JPN

Stuart Russell, Professor, Macquarie University School of Law (retired)

Students for a Free Tibet India

Students for a Free Tibet Taiwan

Tainan Bar Association

Taipei Bar Association

Taiwan Association for Human Rights

Taiwan Bar Association

Taiwan Forever Association (台灣永社)

Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network

Teng Biao, Pozen Visiting Professor, University of Chicago

Tenzin Tsundue, Tibetan Activist and Writer

Tom Kellogg, Executive Director, Georgetown Center for Asian Law

Torontonian HongKongers Action Group

Uyghur Human Rights Project

Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement

Washingtonians Supporting Hong Kong (DC4HK)

We are Kiwi HongKongers

Yellow Power NZ

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