Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho may have committed a criminal offence in calling for the deaths of those who advocate independence, lawyer and Executive Council member Ronny Tong has said.

At an anti-independence rally on Sunday, rural leader Tsang Shu-wo said that pro-independence activists should be “killed” with Ho shouting “without mercy” in response. Ho later said that it was “not a big deal to kill pigs or dogs.”

Their comments came after pro-independence banners emerged on university campuses in Hong Kong over the past weeks.

On a Commercial Radio show on Monday, he asked: “If those who are pro-independence lead to the subversion of the fate of the country; with Hong Kong and the 1.3 billion people in the motherland having to pay a huge price, why shouldn’t these people be killed?”

Junius Ho Kwan-yiu
Junius Ho Kwan-yiu. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

The rally on Sunday also called for Occupy leader Benny Tai to be removed from his teaching position at the University of Hong Kong and linked him to the spread of pro-independence ideas.

In response, Tai said that publicly calling for other people’s deaths had “crossed the bottom line of freedom of speech.”

‘Double standard’

He questioned whether the police would take action if such comments were made at rallies held by others. Tai also cited section 26 of the Public Order Ordinance, which says it is an offence to propose violence at public gatherings.

“The chief executive should really think about whether to condemn this kind of speech. Isn’t it a double standard to condemn cold-blooded statements but not that which advocates violence?” he said on Facebook.

Also speaking on Commercial Radio on Monday, Ronny Tong said that Ho may have also violated 17(b) of the Public Order Ordinance, which criminalises disorder in public places. Tong said that Ho’s comments may be criminal even if he was speaking figuratively. He urged Ho, who is a solicitor, to watch his conduct.

ronny tong kris legco reporters in action
File photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen said on Monday that whether certain conduct or comments constituted a criminal offence would depend on the overall meaning and background, rather than individual words. He stressed again that Hong Kong independence was illegal and unconstitutional.

‘Independence means war’

Ho insisted he was merely expressing his contempt towards evil and said journalists should not take his comments out of context. He also said: “It’s too ironic, someone who has no moral standards, criticising me for crossing the line of moral decency.”

“If we’re talking about Hong Kong independence, that means war. What’s wrong with killing enemies in a war?”

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.