Demosisto raises HK$235,000 in first five hours of campaign amid fears of Beijing crackdown

Joshua Wong speaks into a microphone during a march in Tsim Sha Tsui on July 7, 2019.
Joshua Wong speaks into a microphone during a march in Tsim Sha Tsui on July 7, 2019.

Activist group Demosisto raised HK$235,000 (US$30,300) in the first five hours of its fundraiser—more than a fifth of its HK$1 million (US$128,940) goal—on Friday amid fears that a crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement is underway.

The official announcement Thursday night that the Beijing’s top legislative body will soon discuss a national security law tailor-made for Hong Kong has sent shockwaves through the city. The law could have far-reaching consequences on the territory’s cherished autonomy, critics say, and would allow Beijing authorities to target what it identifies as foreign interference, terrorism, and subversion against the central government.

“I know everyone will be scared tonight, and will be worried. At this moment I am also thinking, what will Hong Kong become after the national security law is passed?” Joshua Wong, Secretary-General of the activist group, wrote in the fundraiser statement.

Hong Kong does not currently have a national security law. Article 23 of the Basic Law stipulates the city must enact the legislation, but attempts to pass it in 2003 were met with massive street protests. The bill was subsequently withdrawn and it has not been tabled since.

The national security law will primarily target two types of people, Jeffrey Ngo, Chief Researcher of Demosisto, tells Coconuts Hong Kong. “The first group is the protesters who have resorted to more confrontational means in the past, and the pro-establishment camp has tried very hard to label them as terrorists.”

Jeffrey Ngo takes part in an anti-government march in Sha Tin on July 14, 2019.
Jeffrey Ngo takes part in an anti-government march in Sha Tin on July 14, 2019. Photo: Demosisto/Facebook

“The second group applies to us, activists who have been actively engaged in international lobbying,” Ngo adds.

Last September, Wong and Demosisto member Nathan Law were among the activists who testified at Congress to drum up support for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. The bill, which allows the U.S. to reconsider its special trade status with Hong Kong and impose sanctions on individuals who have committed human rights violations, was passed in late November.

Nathan Law testifies at Congress in Washington DC on Sep. 20, 2019.
Nathan Law testifies at Congress in Washington DC on Sep. 20, 2019. Photo: Demosisto/Facebook

The money donated will also make up for the cancelation of the annual June 4 Tiananmen vigil this year, which is normally a key fundraising opportunity for the group. Due to COVID-19 restrictions banning mass gatherings, this will be the first time in 30 years that the vigil will not be held.

The national security law is expected to go to a vote in Beijing’s legislature next week, and could be passed as early as the end of June. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a statement that the Hong Kong government will “fully cooperate” with Beijing to “complete the legislation as soon as possible.”

The law “will not affect the legitimate rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents under the law,” Lam said, a claim many are doubtful of.

Ngo fears the future of Demosisto could be at stake if the national security law is passed. The group could be considered an illegal entity, similar to the fate of the localist Hong Kong National Party in 2018, he says.

“Our assets could be frozen, and [our members] might be arrested, charged and subsequently imprisoned,” he says. “That will have a detrimental effect on the international standing of the Hong Kong protest movement as a whole.”

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