Monday, July 6, 2020

Police attack funding for activists in Hong Kong

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Demonstrators in favor of democracy participate in a rally to support the Spark Alliance, a fundraising platform that was accused of money laundering and whose funds were frozen by the authorities, in Hong Kong on December 23. PHILIP FONG / AFP

Thousands of protesters – 45,000 according to the organizers – met peacefully on Monday November 23 in Hong Kong to protest the arrest on Thursday December 19 of four people during a police search at the headquarters of the Spark Alliance, a crowdfunding platform intended to support activists grappling with the authorities. Police accuse them – a student, two employees and a manager – of "money laundering". She suspects the manager of having also diverted part of the money to buy insurance products in his name.

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The police also blame the Spark Alliance for not paying tax. She also claimed "Do not rule out that the funds were used as a reward to encourage young people" to participate in the movement. On its Facebook page, Spark Alliance denounces "Slanderous tactics" of the police. Launched in 2016, the Spark Alliance had raised 70 million Hong Kong dollars (HK dollars) in the past six months, or about 8.1 million euros. A sum frozen by the police.

"In the eye of the storm"

In November Spark Alliance had indicated that the HSBC bank had closed its account, believing that its purpose was not that initially declared. In the wake of the arrests, the HSBC bank said in a statement that it had closed the account " at the customer's request " and that this decision was unrelated to the police operation. A press release issued while activists on social media are questioning whether or not to boycott HSBC. They see this decision as yet another sign of pressure from Beijing and the Hong Kong authorities on the business community in the special administrative region. Pro-Democrat MP Claudia Mo agrees with protesters that the police simply wanted to deprive militants who are fighting for democracy in Hong Kong and against Beijing. "It’s too convenient to call it money laundering," considers the deputy.

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Since the movement began in mid-June, more than 5,800 people have been arrested and are to be tried. After the occupation of several universities and local elections largely won by the pro-Democrats in late November, the tension eased slightly. "We are in the eye of the storm", say the Hong Kongers. Chinese President Xi Jinping, welcoming Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam to Beijing on December 16, renewed his confidence in him but gave him the main task of restoring order.

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