Snacks, books for prisoners spark Hong Kong security law arrests
Three members of pro-democracy student group accused of ‘subversion’ for support scheme for prisoners.
The convenor of Student Politicism, Wong Yat-chin, is detained by police, in Hong Kong [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]
21 Sep 2021
Hong Kong police have arrested three student activists for “subversion” under the territory’s national security law over the group’s welfare programme for prisoners, street booths and social media content.
Senior superintendent Steve Li, from the city’s new national security police unit, announced the arrest of two men and one woman from the pro-democracy group, Student Politicism on Monday.
The three aged between 18 and 20, were the group’s convenor Wong Yat-chin, permanent secretary Wong Chi-sum and former spokesperson Chu Wai-ying.
Li said the group had set up street booths to spread what he called hateful speech against the government, including urging people not to use a government app aimed at tracking the spread of the coronavirus.
Police raided the group’s warehouse and seized large quantities of sweets, surgical masks, biscuits, lotion, and books – all items on a list of goods prisoners are allowed to receive from outside – as evidence.
But Li suggested democracy activists were using the items to win followers in prison.
“Helping prisoners is not a problem but it depends on the intention,” Li said.
“If the intention is to help prisoners with the same beliefs and to recruit followers … to continue to violate national security, it is a problem for sure.”
A mover collects a box full of M&M’s chocolates that were seized by police after they searched a warehouse used by Student Politicism, in Hong Kong [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]
The subversion charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.
The group also used slogans declared illegal under the new national security law and told people to “prepare for the next revolution,” Li said.
China imposed the security law on Hong Kong at the end of June last year, saying it was necessary to bring stability to the territory in the wake of mass marches and protests in 2019. It has also overhauled the territory’s electoral system to ensure only “patriots” can hold political office in Hong Kong.
Critics have said Beijing is destroying the freedoms it promised when Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Hundreds of people have been jailed since the 2019 protests, and many of the city’s most prominent pro-democracy politicians and activists are either in jail awaiting trial, often on national security charges, or have already been sentenced. Others have gone into exile.
In recent weeks, officials have sought to portray prisons as the next battlefront in their war to protect “national security”.
Earlier this month the city’s top security official Chris Tang accused jailed activists of collecting items like chocolates and hair clips to “build power” and “solicit followers”.
Wall-fare, a prisoners’ rights group that provided supplies for prisoners and connected them with pen-pals, disbanded after he made the comments.
The national security law punishes what China considers secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
From: 101 East
Hong Kong: Can­dle in the Wind
A year af­ter Hong Kong in­tro­duced a dra­con­ian se­cu­ri­ty law, 101 East meets the ac­tivists who refuse to be si­lenced.
16 Sep 2021
‘We’re Hong Kong!’: Olympic suc­cess lifts mood in trou­bled city
Team’s un­prece­dent­ed suc­cess in Tokyo fu­els sol­i­dar­i­ty in ter­ri­to­ry fac­ing deep po­lit­i­cal change.
11 Aug 2021
Car­rie Lam: Bei­jing’s ‘head girl’ in Hong Kong
How Hong Kong’s first fe­male leader opened the door to a new era of po­lit­i­cal re­pres­sion in Chi­na’s freest city.
4 Aug 2021
Film on 2019 Hong Kong protests vies for Os­cars, riles Chi­na
Do Not Split cap­tures the vi­o­lence and emo­tion­al toll on young peo­ple strug­gling to pro­tect the city they love.
25 Apr 2021
Australia PM promises $700m more to protect Great Barrier Reef
As Omicron pushes the West to reopen, Asia hunkers down
UN human rights chief allowed to visit Xinjiang after Olympics
North Korea confirms latest tests as Kim visits weapons factory
Biden warns of possible Russian invasion of Ukraine in February
A simple guide to the Ukraine-Russia crisis: 5 things to know
Ukraine crisis: From Belarus to Japan, where do countries stand?
Ukraine faces enormous military odds against Russia
Follow Al Jazeera English:
© 2022 Al Jazeera Media Network
You rely on Al Jazeera for truth and transparency
We understand that your online privacy is very important and consenting to our collection of some personal information takes great trust. We ask for this consent because it allows Al Jazeera to provide an experience that truly gives a voice to the voiceless. You have the option to decline the cookies we automatically place on your browser but allowing Al Jazeera and our trusted partners to use cookies or similar technologies helps us improve our content and offerings to you. You can change your privacy preferences at any time by selecting ‘Cookie preferences’ at the bottom of your screen.To learn more, please view our Cookie Policy.