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Saturday, Sep 19, 2020

Lunchtime protests held in several districts in Hong Kong to show support for Spark Alliance

Police said earlier they had frozen HK$70 million raised by the crowdfunding platform and arrested four people. Protesters view latest police actions as suppression of the anti-government movement
More than 100 protesters gathered at lunchtime in several districts on Friday to show support for a crowdfunding platform for the ongoing protests after police froze HK$70 million (US$9 million) it had raised and arrested four people for money laundering.

Protesters who gathered at Statue Square in Central criticised the police’s actions as suppression of the anti-government movement, which was sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill in early June.

Police revealed on Thursday that the force had frozen about HK$70 million raised by activists via Spark Alliance HK to support the city’s anti-government protesters and also arrested four people aged between 17 and 50 for money laundering.

Officers suspected the funds were used for personal gain and other illegal activities, including participation rewards for young demonstrators, an allegation a source connected to the fundraising platform denied.

Apart from slogans to reiterate the demands like setting up an independent inquiry on police use of force during the protests, the demonstrators also chanted: “Support Spark Alliance, protect comrades”.

Micky Chan, 39, who held a placard stating “evidence of illicit source for protest funds please”, questioned what evidence police had in stating that the financial source of Spark Alliance was illegal.

“[What police did] lacked evidence. This is quite obvious,” said Chan, who works in the financial sector.

“I am worried that police would use the excuse that the case had entered legal proceedings and thus [could] not reveal more details about this case to the public, and freeze the funding for an unlimited period,” he said.

Elsa Chan, a 60-year-old housewife, came from Sham Shui Po to Central to show her support for Spark Alliance.

“We all know that Spark Alliance is supporting Hong Kong comrades, we all know that.

“It is obvious that Hong Kong police made indiscriminate arrests,” she said. “They just wanted to suppress protesters.”
Chan said she donated HK$500 to the alliance in July, and thus far had given about HK$70,000 to different organisations to show her support for the protesters.

But she said police’s actions would not deter her from donating in the future.

“I will continue to donate, as this is a way for Hong Kong to fight against the evil authorities,” she said.

In Kowloon Bay, dozens of demonstrators including residents and office workers marched on streets around Exchange Tower, chanting “Stand with Spark Alliance! Protect Hong Kong!”.

Several riot police officers in full gear followed the protesters and displayed a yellow warning flag, but did not disperse them with force. The crowd was largely peaceful and broke up about an hour later.

Police also guarded several intersections in other districts including Cheung Sha Wan and Kwun Tong, where dozens of demonstrators showed up during the lunch hour.

Spark Alliance, which was founded in 2016 to provide financial assistance and legal aid to those arrested and jailed for taking part in protests, had strongly condemned police’s “smear campaign” of money laundering.

Legal experts had also raised doubts over the arrests, saying public contributions to the group did not amount to money laundering.

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