Hong Kong police raided a museum that commemorated the horrific 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and were seen arresting four people while taking away several exhibits out of the establishment.
The group responsible for managing the museum was called the Hong Kong Alliance and had four of its members detained by police on Wednesday. The individuals arrested by officials include pro-democracy activist and barrister Chow Hang Tung.
Hong Kong Police Raid Museum
Police officers made the arrests under the national security law which gives up to life imprisonment as sentence for alleged criminals. Chow's lawyers said authorities were accusing her of inciting subversion.
Hong Kong Alliance is known for organizing the city's iconic annual vigil that commemorates the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. The group has denied the accusations of being a foreign agent and inciting subversion.
Officials closed down the museum in June and the raid conducted on Thursday was carried out by the newly created national security unit. Some of the exhibits that police removed from the museum include a paper model of the Goddess of Democracy, which is a symbol of the 1989 pro-democracy student movement held in Beijing, BBC reported.
Witnesses also observed police carrying out photos of the large candlelit vigils for Tiananmen victims. Previously, the national security unit requested that the group hand over information, which it allegedly used personal details of all members since its founding and financial records.
The deadline for the request was on Tuesday, and it was when the alliance members sent a letter explaining why they refused to cooperate with authorities. Police officers arrested members of the Hong Kong Alliance the next morning who were part of the group's standing committee while they were at their homes or offices.
Many have criticized the arrests, arguing it is the latest sign of deterioration of the rights and freedoms that Hong Kong used to enjoy in previous years. The situation follows Beijing's invocation of a controversial national security law last year that seemingly aimed to shut down criticism of China's central government, CBS News reported.
Ban on Tiananmen Square Vigil
In a separate incident, a dozen Hong Kong pro-democracy activists pleaded guilty on Thursday to participating in an unauthorized candlelit vigil to mark the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The individuals were caught in Victoria Park on June 4 last year. At the event, thousands of residents turned up to light candles and sing songs despite warnings from police that they were breaking the law.
Seven of the 12 suspects were also charged with inciting others and inviting them to partake in the assembly. Hong Kong authorities banned the vigils two years ago, arguing that the events held public health risks due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, critics have argued that the health crisis was only used as an excuse in the government's continued crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory after months-long anti-government protests in 2019.
Before authorities banned the event, thousands of people attended the annual June 4 event and was known to be the only large-scale public commemoration on Chinese soil of the 1989 disaster, ABC News reported.