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Six arrested under Hong Kong’s new security law for ‘posting messages’ online

Six arrested under Hong Kong's new security law for 'posting messages' online: police
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Hong Kong police arrested six people on Tuesday under the city’s new security law for “posting messages with seditious intention” online on a Facebook page about commemorating Beijing’s deadly 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Five women and one man were arrested for “posting messages with seditious intention on an anonymous social media page since April 2024”, the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force said in a statement.

One of the women arrested is already on remand in a maximum-security prison. Security chief Chris Tang confirmed the woman was Chow Hang-tung, a prominent activist who has been jailed since September 2021.

Chow was the former leader of the now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance, which had organised an annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong to mourn the victims of June 4, 1989, when Beijing sent troops into Tiananmen Square to quash protests calling for political change.

Tuesday’s arrests came as the 35th anniversary of that crackdown approaches.

Tang also told a news briefing the Facebook page in question was the “Chow Hang-tung Club”.

He said the six, aged between 37 and 65, were “making use of a sensitive day to incite the public to commit acts that endanger public safety, public order and national security”.

Discussion of the Tiananmen crackdown is highly sensitive for China’s communist leadership and commemoration is forbidden on the mainland.

The Chinese government sent troops and tanks into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 to break up peaceful, weeks-long protests.

Hundreds, by some estimates more than 1,000, were killed.

Police said the messages were written “with the aim to incite hatred towards” the governments of China and Hong Kong “as well as inciting netizens to organise or take part in unlawful activities at a later stage”.

The police statement said the six were suspected of violating Hong Kong’s newly enacted “Safeguarding National Security Ordinance”.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

Tuesday marked the first such arrests under the new law, which was enacted in March and is commonly referred to as Article 23.

It includes penalties of up to life imprisonment for five categories of crime including treason, insurrection, and external interference.

It also expanded the British colonial-era offence of “sedition” to include inciting hatred against China’s Communist Party leadership.

The legislation is Hong Kong’s second national security law and follows the one imposed by Beijing in 2020 after huge, sometimes violent pro-democracy protests were broken up.

The “Chow Hang-tung Club” Facebook page had been publishing daily posts since late April about her memories of participating in the city’s June 4, 1989, commemorations.

Hong Kong held an annual vigil for three decades that brought thousands to a city park in a sign of freedoms that set it apart from the mainland, where all mention of the incident is censored.

The vigil has been banned in Hong Kong since 2020, replaced instead by increased police presence around the park.

Chow, according to Facebook posts, had called on the public to submit their memories for her to exhibit in court as a way of “preserving our true narrative”.

She and two former Hong Kong Alliance leaders face an upcoming trial after they were charged with “incitement to subversion” under the Beijing-imposed security law.

Chow has been jailed for three other cases, including for “unauthorised assembly” for commemorating June 4 in 2020, and has been sentenced to more than 30 months in jail.

Tuesday’s arrests appeared “to showcase that any public — including online — discussion or opinions… could be deemed seditious or endangering national security”, said Eric Lai, a legal scholar at Georgetown University.

“In Hong Kong, the scope of free speech and free expression in the digital space is obviously diminished,” he said, pointing to a recent government ban on the protest song “Glory to Hong Kong”.

The United States, the European Union, Japan and Britain have been among Article 23’s strongest critics, with UK Foreign Minister David Cameron saying it would “further damage the rights and freedoms” of those in the city.

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AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.







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