Observers in Hong Kong and elsewhere fear the banking freezes sign a kind a political retribution underneath the brand new national security law that Chinese language authorities pressured on Hong Kong earlier this yr.
The police declare they froze the accounts due to cash laundering and fraud. In line with officers, the church obtained $3.5 million between June 2019 and September 2020 however reported it had raised $1.1 million. Officers additionally say the church’s bills don’t match the acknowledged functions of its crowdfunding campaigns. The utmost penalty for cash laundering is 14 years in jail and a tremendous of $645,000.
Chan has insisted all the cash the church, a registered charity, obtained by way of crowdfunding is authorized. “What the church is going through now could be spiritual suppression, social welfare suppression, and political suppression,” stated Chan in a video posted on Fb on Dec 8.
Chan didn’t reply to my requests for remark. In a Dec. 9 Fb submit, the church stated it hires an accountant for annual audits to make sure compliance with authorities rules.
At some point after freezing the accounts, law enforcement officials searched the church’s premises in Kwun Tong and Fanling, along with three hostels which might be a part of the church’s homeless ministry. Authorities additionally arrested two church staffers and have ordered the arrest of Chan and his spouse, who’re presently abroad on sabbatical in the UK, the place they had been contemplating establishing a church plant.
Christian and social welfare teams ran a full-page ad on Dec. 24 within the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Every day that condemned the political suppression of Good Neighbor Church. The church has launched a Change.org petition that has garnered over 24,000 signatures and calls on HSBC to unfreeze the accounts.
Different Christian teams have spoken up for the beleaguered church. One petition says the police selectively disclosed Good Neighbor’s monetary data with a purpose to smear the church. (Chan says he has shunned discussing church funds for authorized causes.) One other petition likens the church’s plight to that of former pro-democracy legislator Ted Hui. Police, who accused Hui of cash laundering, additionally requested HSBC freeze his and his household’s accounts. Though Hui denies the police claims, HSBC froze the accounts shortly after the activist declared his exile within the U.Okay. along with his household. He had raised cash for authorized actions towards the federal government previous to his resignation from the legislature in November.
The freezing of accounts “displays that underneath the nationwide safety regulation, banks can simply freeze residents’ belongings as a result of political strain, which critically undermines the credibility of Hong Kong’s banking and monetary methods,” the ex-lawmaker wrote on Fb on Dec. 6, calling the federal government’s transfer an act of “political revenge.”
For the church, probably the most direct influence from the frozen accounts is the disruption to its homeless ministry that started in 2014, Chan stated in his video assertion. With out cash to pay lease for the 30 hostel beds and salaries for 4 social staff, the church must flip away 70 or so beneficiaries, who may discover themselves again on the streets.
With its account frozen, the church has sought authorized recommendation and introduced it could possibly now not settle for donations and choices. To keep up operations, together with weekend worship companies, staffers have needed to work with out pay.
Chan resigned from the church on earlier this month “to cut back the authorized threat to others” and has adopted authorized recommendation to stay silent on the arrests of the 2 staffers to “defend” them, he stated in latest Fb posts. Nonetheless, 20 workers have reportedly additionally resigned. In an nameless assertion despatched to native media shops on Dec. 26 and revealed by the Christian Times, the 20 workers stated they really feel “disappointment” and “mistrust” towards Chan, who they declare “has not taken critically the security of the workers.”
With a number of workers remaining, Good Neighbor Church continues to help pro-democracy protesters by posting data on its Fb web page on court docket hearings for arrested demonstrators. Police have arrested over 10,000 residents in reference to the protest motion that started in June 2019.
As for Chan, he has arrange an account on the crowdfunding platform Patreon to help his spouse and three daughters.
Due to the political suppression, Chan stated, “I’ve been pressured to not be capable to return to Hong Kong, my own residence.”
China jails “Hong Kong 12”
On Wednesday, a Chinese language court docket sentenced 12 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists to as much as three years in jail. The 12 Hong Kongers, aged 16 to 33, are accused of offenses associated to final yr’s pro-democracy motion. The Chinese language coast guard had caught the activists making an attempt to flee from Hong Kong to Taiwan by speedboat in August.
The Shenzhen court docket sentenced eight members of the group to seven months in jail for illegally crossing China’s border. It handed two- and three-year jail sentences to 2 others for organizing the crossing. Chinese language authorities didn’t cost the remaining two activists, who’re minors.
Chinese language authorities have denied the detainees entry to legal professionals employed by their households. Relations who had been barred from the court docket listening to that started on Monday known as the process a “de facto secret trial” in a statement. Earlier this month, the U.S. Embassy in China known as for the fast launch of the 12: “Their so-called ‘crime’ was to flee tyranny. Communist China will cease at nothing to stop its individuals from looking for freedom elsewhere.”