Hong Kong (7/12). As at 31st October 2019, 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund has managed to raise a whopping total of HK$92,172,101.42 since the beginning of the anti-extradition protest in June 2019.
The controversial Fund was set up on 15th June 2019 to provide legal expenditure, medical expenses, psychological counselling and other related assistance for protesters during anti-extradition protests.
The trustees of the Fund included Joseph Zen, Cardinal of the Catholic Church from Hong Kong (a close ally of Jimmy Lai who owns Apple Daily), singer Denise Ho, Cyd Ho Sau-lan and Dr. Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, both ex-Legislative Councillors.
However, according to their latest financial report in October 2019, the Fund seems to have deviated from its initial purpose and the list of non-exhaustive expenditure includes everything from provision of audiovisual equipment for legal seminar, purchase of portable ultrasonic machine for a ‘Hidden Clinic’ Telegram group to legal and medical expenses incurred by Taiwanese NGOs for Hong Kong protesters in Taiwan and organisation of talks in London and Geneva (Click HERE for their latest report in Cantonese). In cases of which they have provided medical or legal assistance, almost all of the victims were involved in high profile cases.
The breakdown of the receipts and expenses of the Fund is as follows:
Meanwhile, as at 28th November, a total of 5,889 persons were arrested by the Police at public order events held since June 9, 2019. Among them, 921 persons have their judicial proceedings ongoing while 33 persons have their judicial proceedings concluded.
As at end of October, the Fund was following up on a total of 1,305 cases which included 193 persons who were charged, 796 arrestees, 272 injured protesters and 44 miscellaneous cases. In addition, the 612 fund also provided medical fees for 419 protesters, counselling fees for 60 people, financial assistance to 860 applicants, legal expenses for 128 people and refundable bail payment for 455 protesters. Other services and support were also provided for 2,846 applicants.
Between July and August, the Fund has also footed the expenses for Marcus Leung’s funeral (The man in the yellow coat who committed suicide in Admiralty), Protest Victims Support Platform set up by Civil Rights Observer, seminars in 18 districts held to give emotional support to mothers and parents during the protests in July, audiovisual equipment for legal seminar held at Legislative Council protest zone on 23rd June, organisation of talks by the Hong Kong Higher Institutions International Affairs Delegation in London, Geneva and other cities (including transportation and meal costs) in September, 24-hour legal advice hotline set up by Civil Rights Observer for arrestees in September and October, 24-hour legal advice hotline set up by Civil Human Rights Front for arrestees in September and October, legal seminar organised by pro-democracy ‘Local Press’ media in September, ‘Trauma to Transformation’ workshop in October, purchase of Portable ultrasonic machine for a ‘Hidden Clinic’ Telegram Channel set up to provide free 24-hour medical advice and service to protesters on condition of anonymity (The service is provided by voluntary medical staff and at least 300 protesters have used their service as at 1st October), support for voluntary paramedics in September and October, legal and medical expenses incurred by Taiwanese NGOs for Hong Kong protesters in Taiwan, medication for protesters who suffered side effects of Tear Gas via a Telegram group.
The Fund also footed the legal expenses in civil suits for 15 high profile cases which involve amongst others, Yeung Tsz Chun, a teacher from Diocesan Girls’ School who was shot in the eye in June and he subsequently applied to court to demand PTU officers to reveal their police number (Case no. HCAL 2617/2019); another protester, Chuang who applied to court to seek damages from the police after being shot by tear gas canister during the clash in Admiralty on 12th June (Case no.DCPI 3075/2019); application to court to seek damages due to unlawful police arrest of Student Union President Keith Fong Chung-yin from Hong Kong Baptist University for possession of laser pointers (Case No.DCPI 3029/2019); application by Student Union leader of The Education University of Hong Kong, Leung to court to demand MTR Corp not to delete parts of the CCTV footage of the incidents that took place at Prince Edward MTR Station and Lai Chi Kok Station on 31st August (Case no. HCMP 1441/2019) and application for judicial review by Jimmy Sham, convener of Civil Human Rights Front and Yeung against police clearance at Citic Tower during the legal assembly on 12th June (Case no. HCAL 2670/2019).
Despite having accumulated a large amount of donations, the Fund wilfully continues to urge protesters who were charged to apply for legal aid service instead. The Fund appeals to qualified defendants to apply for legal aid because court trials involve large and unpredictable legal fees, especially in cases involving multiple defendants and cases heard in the District Court or the High Court.
If there are several trials in the District Court and the High Court during the same period, the Fund claims that they may not be able to afford it. Therefore, if public resources are available, they encourage qualified people to make the best use of them so that the Fund can use the resources donated by citizens to provide expenses for the trial, defence and appeal stages for defendants who fail to apply for legal aid.
Hundreds of defendants are currently facing judicial proceedings, and many cases will involve multiple defendants. According to the Fund, the number of trial days is difficult to predict, and the legal fees will be huge and unpredictable. The Fund trustees argued that they are responsible to make every effort to ensure the smooth operation of the fund, to balance the legal rights of all defendants and the financial capacity of the fund.
We mentioned in our earlier article that the Fund has only been spending on protesters who could help in their propaganda or the front line protesters who may be working indirectly for them.
Why did they need to spend HK$181,310.90 on the funeral of Marcus Leung (the protester clad in yellow raincoat who sacrificed himself at Admiralty)? Because this high profile suicide received significant empathy from all over the world. Hence, multiple memorial services needed to be held for the whole world to know why he died.
Also, why did the Fund spend on the audiovisual equipment for street rallies and seminar? They have also paid in full the medical expenses for the girl who ruptured her right eye after she was allegedly shot by a bean bag round. She has since ‘disappeared’ from the public after filing an injunction to prevent the police from accessing her medical report.
Contrary to their claims, the Fund even footed the bills for lengthy and expensive high-profile civil suits mentioned above. These suits were filed with the ultimate intent to implicate both the police force and MTR Corp if the Plaintiffs successfully won the cases eventually.
The Fund seems to be applying a double standard when it comes to screening cases. Is a civil suit filed to seek damages from police force more urgent than a criminal case filed against a protester who may spend years in jail? An anonymous frontline radical risks his personal freedom to fight for the cause, if he was not shot in the eye or chest, the Fund may unsympathetically turn down his application solely because the legal fees spent may serve no purpose to their propaganda.
On the other hand, in a high profile case, if the court rules in their favour, the pro-democracy camp will achieve a new milestone in their propaganda and earn more brownie points in the international community. The Fund is seemingly used more like a war chest to finance the pro-democracy propaganda than to serve its original purpose of providing humanitarian relief. The primary objective of humanitarian relief is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity. Based on the past and existing expenditure of the Fund, we do not think that it was set up for the noble cause as claimed.