A barrister from the Progressive Lawyers’ Group on Friday cast doubts as to the basis of police action against a group which has been assisting anti-government protesters, saying providing financial aid to people who have been charged with offences is not a crime.

Barrister Duncan Ho noted that Spark Alliance says on its website that it only provides support to protesters who have been arrested or charged, as well as helping those who need support to meet their living expenses.

If this is the only assistance the alliance provides, I don’t see how this assistance would be an indictable offence, said Ho. “It’s not a direct subsidy to what the protesters are doing, even if the protester has committed any offence, in terms of public order like unlawful assembly or even serious crimes like arson etc,” the barrister said.

The police on Thursday said they had arrested four people linked to Spark Alliance over suspicion of money laundering and had frozen HK$70 million the group had collected through crowdfunding.

Ho said there are a few ordinances that deal with handling the proceeds of serious crime, including the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance. Under this ordinance, if a person handles property or funds knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe they are the proceeds of an indictable offence, then he commits a crime himself, Ho said.

“So in broad terms, money laundering means any person who deals with property that he knows or reasonable believes are proceeds from an indictable offence,” said Ho.

He said banks have an obligation to inform police if they have any suspicion. Then a joint task force would study the situation and let the bank know if they can allow the account to continue to be used, said Ho.

Article originally appeared in Radio Television Hong Kong on 20 December 2019.