Civil Human Rights Front disbands over ‘suppression’

The Civil Human Rights Front on Sunday said it’s disbanding, saying it can no longer operate in the face of what it described as suppression from the authorities.

“Unfortunately, for the past year or so, the government repeatedly used the pandemic as a pretext to reject the front and other organisations’ applications to hold rallies,” its statement said.

“Our member groups were suppressed, and civil society is facing unprecedented challenges,” it said.

“The front had wanted to maintain its original operations and brace the difficulties with everyone else. But our convenor Figo Chan is already incarcerated over numerous cases. The secretariat can no longer operate, and since no one had indicated they will take over, [the front] has no choice but to disband,” the statement said.

Representatives of its member groups attended a meeting on August 13 and had unanimously decided to dissolve with immediate effect, it said, adding the HK$1.6 million assets it holds will be donated to suitable organisations.

“We thank the Hong Kong people for walking side by side with the front in the past 19 years”, the statement said.

Their participation in the mass protests organised by the front had “allowed the world to see Hong Kong, allowed light to shine through darkness, and had sown the seed of democracy and freedom in peoples’ hearts,” it said.

The front was founded in 2002, and was the organiser of some of the largest protests in the city – including the annual July 1 demonstrations and a number of anti-extradition law rallies in 2019.

The umbrella group had around 50 members before Beijing imposed the national security law in the SAR, but most of its constituent members had since pulled out, including the Democratic Party, the Civic Party, and the now-defunct Professional Teachers’ Union.

The front’s convenor, Figo Chan, was jailed in May for 18 months over an unauthorised protest in 2019.

He had written an open letter at the time saying “the road ahead will be difficult”, but the front will hang on “to the last minute”.

Police in April said it’s investigating the front’s finances, and had accused the front of failing to register under the Societies Ordinance. The force has yet to give any updates on their probe.

The front’s decision comes just days after the Professional Teachers’ Union announced on Tuesday that it’ disbanding, citing immense pressure amid radical social and political changes.