Chow Hang-tung, a human rights lawyer and an organizer of the annual Hong Kong vigil commemorating the Tiananmen crackdown, was charged for “advertising or publicizing unauthorized assembly”. The arrest came after Chow posted messages on social media asking people to individually commemorate China’s Tiananmen crackdown in June 1989, as the public vigil was banned. This is yet another example of the chilling effect on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Hong Kong as authorities increasingly use the Public Order Ordinance to target activists and human rights defenders.
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Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah
Department of Justice
G/F, Main Wing, Justice Place
18 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong
Fax: (852) 3902 8638
Email: [email protected]
Ambassador Cui Tiankai
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
3505 International Place NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202 495 2266 / Fax: 202 495 2138
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
Dear Secretary Cheng,
I am writing to express my grave concern for Chow Hang-tung (鄒幸彤)
, a barrister who has been arrested and charged for “advertising or publicizing unauthorized assembly”. It is alarming to learn that she was targeted simply for writing social media posts asking people to commemorate the Tiananmen crackdown in a private manner. This act is a mere peaceful expression of opinion, which is permissible under international human rights law and standards, and must not be criminalized.
I find it distressing that the authorities increasingly use the Public Order Ordinance to target activists and human rights defenders who exercise their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Over the past two years the authorities have arrested, charged and sentenced at least nine members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China for taking part in unauthorized assemblies.
As you will be aware, under international human rights law and standards, participating in and organizing peaceful assemblies does not require prior permission by the state. Failure to notify the authorities of an assembly should not render participation in the assembly unlawful and should not in itself be used as a basis for either arresting the participants or organizers or imposing undue sanctions, such as charging them with criminal offences.
I therefore call on you to:
- Drop all charges against and release Chow Hang-tung immediately and unconditionally, as she was charged solely for peacefully exercising her rights;
- End the practice of bringing criminal charges against those who have simply exercised their right to freedom of expression or other human rights;
- Review and amend all laws and regulations, and end all related measures, that violate the exercise of human rights, in particular to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.