A 22-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday morning on suspicion of accessing a computer with criminal or dishonest intent after he allegedly threatened violent acts against returning officers.

The police said they discovered threats on social media – including claims to be preparing for violent actions – from people dissatisfied at decisions made by returning officers to reject the candidacies of certain hopefuls in the upcoming Legislative Council election.

The man, surnamed Tsoi, was arrested in a flat in Yiu Tung Estate in Shau Kei Wan. He allegedly made threats to “throw bricks, throw stones, and throw bombs,” according to Jethro Chiu Kin-yip, senior inspector of the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau.

The suspect and a notice from localist group Hong Kong Indigenous.

The government previously condemned “malicious personal attacks,” “intimidating remarks” and threats made online against a returning officer who banned a pro-independence candidate from running in the upcoming Legislative Council election.

Chiu said these actions may have violated Hong Kong laws and the police are investigating them.

“The police respect the rights of citizens to express their views and the freedom of speech, but the internet is not a world ungoverned by law,” RTHK reported Chiu as saying. “Most laws can be applied to the internet.”

Chiu added that it was inconvenient for the police to speak of his political views, but said the investigation will not be affected by them.

Chan Ho-tin of the Hong Kong National Party and Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous. Inset: returning officers for their constituencies.

The localist group Hong Kong Indigenous said it has provided legal assistance for the suspect.

Edward Leung Tin-kei of the group was one of the six candidates whose candidacies were rejected because returning officers decided that they could not uphold the Basic Law.

IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok said on social media that the suspect should be arrested for intimidation if the police found that he was making threats, but to charge him with accessing a computer with criminal or dishonest intent would be “misusing” that section of the law.

The law states that “any person who obtains access to a computer with intent to commit an offence, or with a dishonest intent to deceive, or with a view to dishonest gain for himself or another, or with a dishonest intent to cause loss to another, whether on the same occasion as he obtains such access or on any future occasion, commits an offence and is liable on conviction upon indictment to imprisonment for five years.”

Mok, of the Professional Commons, is running in the Information Technology functional constituency in the upcoming LegCo election. Eric Yeung Chuen-sing is also running in the constituency.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.