‘Protest fund should’ve been banned long time ago’

Financial services minister Christopher Hui has come under fire at the Legislative Council for not taking action sooner against a fund that raises money to help people arrested during the 2019 social unrest.

The criticism follows the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund’s announcement on Monday that it had immediately halted the collection of donations, after the Alliance for True Democracy, the group whose bank account it used, said it would no longer execute its payment requests.

The two organisations are currently under investigation by national security police, who’d ordered them to hand over information, including details of donors and recipients.

During a Legco meeting on Wednesday, lawmakers said the government had acted too late and should’ve stopped the fund from collecting money even before the national security law came into effect last year.

“Are you giving them enough time to transfer the funds out or actually to delete all records?… Why don’t you arrest these persons and freeze such assets?” questioned the DAB’s Elizabeth Quat.

Another lawmaker, Junius Ho, accused the financial services chief of dereliction of duty.

“It’s not going to help by scolding me,” the official said, denying the accusation.

Hui said the police were already probing if the fund had violated the national security law, and the administration will see if regulations need to be revised.

He added that the fund did not register as a society under the Societies Ordinance, and it would be illegal for anyone to provide trust or company services without a licence.

The fund announced last month that it would disband in October.

However, Hui stopped short of saying whether the Alliance for True Democracy, which received donations on the fund’s behalf, might have broken the law.

The minister urged people to sever ties with the fund to avoid legal risks.

“I am sure all of you lawmakers know that such bodies are beguiling others into thinking that there’s only a very low cost to violate the law. This is shameful and abominable,” he said.