- Anti-China group secretly financed “independent” inquiry which it then pointed to as confirming their allegations
- Apple Daily bosses gave HK$500,000 to finance junkets to Hong Kong for UK anti-China campaigners David Alton and Luke de Pulford
- UK plotters raised HK$10 million from the public to prosecute working police officers in Hong Kong but plan mysteriously disappears
- Local administrators of the secret scheme admit plot to get multiple countries to sanction Hong Kong
AFTER THE INSURRECTION got underway in 2019, various anti-China groups emerged to encourage the protest movement and its armed wing. Of these, none was more malignant than Hong Kong Watch, the London-based propaganda outfit operated by the serial fantasist, Benedict Rogers. To raise its profile, Rogers roped in an assortment of China bashers as patrons, all happy to propagandize upon request. They included the former governor, Chris Patten, the former foreign secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, and the House of Lords backwoodsman, Lord (David) Alton.
Although Hong Kong Watch is relatively open about its activities, this cannot be said of its associate, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” (SWHK). Obsessively secretive, it always concealed its officers, membership and location, and made full use of proxies, anonymous Facebook accounts and pseudonyms.
Oozing hatred of China from every pore, its website nonetheless calls it “an independent, grassroots, crowdfunding advocacy group of individuals who have come together to fight for freedom and democracy for Hong Kong”.
During the insurrection, SWHK established links with subversive elements across society, including in the student unions. Under the guise of democratic activism, it encouraged every type of depredation not only in the city, but also against it from outside.
Using networks to which its controllers provided access, it cultivated ties with McCarthyite elements in foreign parliaments, and campaigned for the United States to enact the sanctions-heavy Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
As with Hong Kong Watch, it distorted the truth about the city, peddled fallacies about the Chinese mainland, and sought to hinder China’s resurgence.
TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE
Using its slogan “fight for freedom”, SWHK had no qualms in resorting to multifaceted chicanery. Apart from whitewashing the protesters’ outrages and advocating their “five demands”, it also targeted particular officials who upset them.
It not only, for example, urged the UK government to revoke the citizenship of British police officers serving in the Hong Kong Police Force, but also helped to raise HK$10 million (US$1.28 million) to bring private prosecutions for terrorism against them in the British courts.
This, however, was a travesty of justice and died a death, notwithstanding the best efforts of the criminal fugitive Nathan Law Kwun-chung, and, if the money raised has not been refunded, the fraud squad will hopefully be investigating.
PLENTY OF CASH
From the outset, SWHK had funding of its own, although, until much later, its origins were unclear. What was known, however, was that it always had plenty of cash and was prepared to splash it around.
One eager beneficiary was the Hong Kong Watch patron, David Alton, who clearly loves his freebies. After an all-expenses paid trip to Taiwan, from Oct 1 to 6, 2019, in which, as parliamentary records disclose, he met “government ministers and officials”, he then turned up in Hong Kong, from Nov 23 to 25, 2019, calling himself an “election monitor”, with all his “travel and accommodation” being funded by SWHK.
Quite why SWHK bothered itself with someone like Alton was initially a mystery, but no longer. On Nov 6, 2019, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong was launched, with the professed aims of promoting democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Hong Kong, and Alton became its vice-chair.
Despite its grandiose title, the APPG has no official standing, and its true motivation was obvious from the beginning. Indeed, its launch party in London was attended by activists from SWHK, one of whom gave a speech, and from a sister body, the UK-based Democracy for Hong Kong.
Once formed, the APPG announced, on March 10, 2020, that it would conduct a “limited official inquiry” into the handling of medical workers and activists by the Hong Kong Police Force, with its report being submitted to the British government.
What, however, astonished observers was the announcement that the inquiry was to be chaired by the APPG’s co-chair, Baroness (Natalie) Bennett, a highly partisan figure who, like Alton, made no secret of her animus towards the police force. Indeed, on March 19, 2020, prior to the inquiry starting, she wrote to the South China Morning Post to denounce “the excessive force used by the Hong Kong Police” against protesters who were “risking life and liberty defending Hong Kong”.
In other words, Bennett, with Alton at her side, was planning a kangaroo court in which the police would stand no chance, and their report duly accused the force of having “indisputably” violated international human rights law.
‘The inquiry was not only being conducted by individuals who had already prejudged the issues… but was being financed by an anti-police body that expected a critical report.”
However, there was far more to the report than the inherent bias of its authors.
Shortly after the APPG’s inquiry was announced, researchers made an astonishing discovery in a parliamentary register. The APPG’s secretariat was the Whitehouse Consultancy, a communications agency, that was being funded by SWHK.
As of Nov 5, 2019, it had pumped GBP36,000 (US$49,530) into Whitehouse, and this, presumably, was just for starters. What this meant, therefore, was that the inquiry was not only being conducted by individuals who had already prejudged the issues, and, in Alton’s case, actually taken money from SWHK, but that it was being financed by an anti-police body that expected a critical report.
Indeed, notwithstanding having paid for it in advance, SWHK even had the bare-faced effrontery to announce that “we welcome the release of the report, which reaffirms the violations of international humanitarian principles by the HKPF”.
The APPG inquiry, therefore, was a grotesque charade, offensive to natural justice and disrespectful of fair play.
Although this is how SWHK operates, it was extraordinary that Bennett and Alton were prepared to join it in the gutter. Once again, this unsavory episode illustrated the lengths to which some people are prepared to go in order to try to damage Hong Kong and undermine China.
The failure, moreover, of the British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, to call the authors out after the report was submitted was extraordinary and spoke volumes for this hapless individual’s mindset.
On Aug 10, 2020, just days after the APPG’s report was issued on Aug 6, more light was shed on SWHK. After the media magnate Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, and nine other suspects were arrested for collusion with foreign forces, it was widely reported that they had been plotting with SWHK to secure the imposition of international sanctions upon China. Although this was scornfully dismissed by some people as scaremongering, the latest revelations will now have given them pause for thought.
Apple Daily bosses were the ‘masterminds and financial supporters behind the scenes’ the court heard
On Aug 19, 2021, Andy Li Yu-hin and Chan Tsz-wah pleaded guilty in the High Court to conspiring to collude with foreign forces, Lai and his aide Mark Simon to endanger national security.
Although, legally speaking, their admissions are only binding on them, and are not evidence against the other suspects, they acknowledged that they had, between July 2020 and February 2021, colluded with Lai, Simon and others to organize international promotions to encourage foreign governments to sanction Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Chinese mainland officials.
According to the lead prosecutor, the inimitable Anthony Chau Tin-hang, Lai and Simon were the “masterminds and financial supporters behind the scenes and at the highest levels of command of the syndicate”, and they controlled SWHK.
TED CRUZ AND OTHERS
Simon, said Chau, reported directly to Lai, executed his instructions and vetted requests for financial support, and the pair of them assisted Li to forge SWHK’s overseas contacts, notably in the US.
Indeed, Li, with Lai’s approval, reportedly sent a sanctions list targeting 144 politicians and officials to the then-managing director of the US-based Hong Kong Democracy Council, Samuel Chu Muk-man, the son of Occupy Central co-founder Chu Yiu-ming.
Having received the list, Chu, in respect of whom an arrest warrant is now in force for allegedly violating national security, passed it not only to US senators Ted Cruz and Rick Scott for action, but also to the Hong Kong Watch “Fellow”, Luke de Pulford, in the UK.
Chau also disclosed how, using Lai’s finances, Li and Finn Lau Cho-dick, another criminal fugitive, had created SWHK in August 2019. The choice of Lau was interesting, not least because he pioneered the protest movement’s “Lam Chau” strategy, and even deployed the LIHKG user name “I want Lam Chau”. [Editor’s note: Lam chau, meaning “frying together”, is a plan to deliberately crash the community’s economy.]
‘Hostile articles were placed in overseas newspapers’
Whenever Lai and Simon needed to give instructions to Li and Lau, they were conveyed by Chan Tsz-wah. A key function of SWHK at this stage was to press for foreign sanctions, as well as to seek global condemnation of local and mainland officials, and the police force.
Hostile articles were placed in overseas newspapers, and foreign functionaries, like de Pulford, were allegedly engaged to persuade 32 countries to terminate their extradition and mutual legal assistance agreements with Hong Kong, which, of course, some did.
Lai and Simon, moreover, also offered free publicity for SWHK in Apple Daily, and Lau, who was described as its spiritual leader, was told he could use copyrighted photographs for propaganda purposes.
CASH FOR LOBBYING
As regards SWHK’s crowdfunding campaigns in 2019-20, Chau revealed that these netted approximately HK$37.6 million. The money was used to publish propaganda and reports, like that of the APPG, to retain consultancy and lobbying firms, like Whitehouse, to organize demonstrations, and to sponsor foreign politicians visiting Hong Kong to observe the protests.
Intriguingly, however, it was not used to fund Alton’s trip to Hong Kong, nor that of de Pulford, who accompanied him, as Simon gave Li HK$500,000 to finance those particular junkets.
Having admitted the truth of the prosecution case, it remains to be seen if Li and Chan will give evidence against their co-accused. If so, and the evidence is truthful, they could qualify for a significant sentencing discount. Although prosecutors will be assembling as strong a case as possible against the remaining suspects, they will undoubtedly appreciate extra evidence, not least because it could help trigger further guilty pleas.
EXPOSED AS CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY
But, irrespective of whether this is forthcoming, SWHK has finally been exposed as a criminal conspiracy, and everyone can now understand why it was always so secretive.
Quite clearly, everybody who worked with SWHK is guilty of violating national security, and must face justice. Although some suspects are facing trial, others are still at large, and must be pursued for as long as it takes. While they may imagine they are safe in their foreign hideaways, they can never afford to let their guard down, particularly when traveling. After all, criminal justice has a long reach, and is also very patient.
No matter the obstacles, the authorities must commit themselves to bringing to account anybody who sought to destroy Hong Kong and weaken China by collaborating with SWHK.
I. Grenville Cross is a senior counsel, law professor and criminal justice analyst, and was previously director of public prosecutions of the Hong Kong SAR. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including the Standard, the South China Morning Post, and China Daily. This piece was printed simultaneously with China Daily Hong Kong.
Further reading: The untold story of Apple Daily
Image of police at top is by Oscar Chan/ Pexels