Hong Kong police have charged the group that organizes the city’s annual Tiananmen candlelight vigil and three of its leaders with subversion under the national security law. The charge is happened during an ongoing crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China said late Thursday that its chairman, Lee Cheuk-yan, and vice-chairs Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung had been charged with “inciting subversion of state power” under a national security law imposed by Beijing more than a year ago.

The case was heard in court on Friday. Lee and Ho are already in prison for their roles in 2019 protests. Chow and four other people arrested this week were also charged with failing to give information for a national security inquiry.

The allegations come after police raided and confiscated computers, documents, and promotional materials from the shuttered June 4th museum, which was managed by the alliance to remember the tragic Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing on 4 June 1989.

According to police, the alliance’s assets totaled 2.2 million Hong Kong dollars ($280,000).

On the anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown, the alliance is most known for organizing candlelight vigils in a Hong Kong park. The annual ceremony drew vast crowds and was the sole large-scale public commemoration on Chinese land.

Authorities have prohibited the vigils for the past two years, claiming public health threats from the Covid-19 outbreak, while critics think the prohibition is part of a broader crackdown on dissent in the city following months of anti-government protests in 2019.

Dozens of pro-democracy activists have been detained, while others have fled to exile abroad, and the city has modified its electoral laws to raise the number of seats for pro-Beijing legislators while decreasing those directly elected.

Beijing slapped a national security statute on the city in June last year, criminalizing subversion, secession, terrorism, and foreign cooperation to intervene in the city’s affairs.

Critics argue that the national security law, which has resulted in the imprisonment of over 100 persons, undermines the liberties given to the former British colony when it was handed over to China in 1997. For the past 50 years, Hong Kong has been promised that it will be able to keep liberties not found on the mainland, such as freedom of expression and assembly.

More stories