Police are looking into comments about “killing” pro-independence advocates made at a pro-Beijing rally on Sunday.

At the event, rural leader Tsang Shu-wo said that pro-independence activists should be “killed.” Lawmaker Junius Ho shouted “without mercy” in response. Ho told reporters after the rally that it was “not a big deal to kill pigs or dogs.”

Junius Ho (right) at the anti-independence rally with rural leader Tsang Shu-wo (centre). Photo: Facebook/Junius Ho.

Asked about the case at the airport before a trip to Beijing on Wednesday, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu told reporters that he would not comment on specific cases, but “because somebody reported it, the police will follow up on it and handle it according to set procedures.”

He added that the Bill of Rights stipulates that freedom of expression is subject to restrictions, meaning that those exercising their freedom must respect the rights or reputations of others, and cannot endanger national security, public order, public health or morals.

A police spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday that the police had received the case and classified it as a “request for police investigation.” The case was transferred to the Hong Kong Island Regional Public Order Event Investigation Team. The spokesperson told Ming Pao that the police respect citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly, but they would enforce the law decisively if there is any illegal activity.

Convenor of the North District Parallel Imports Concern Group Leung Kam-sing said on Facebook that the case was rejected when he reported it to the Ngau Tau Kok police station on Monday night, but was later accepted.

The anti-independence rally. Photo: Facebook/Junius Ho.

The comments made at the rally have met with condemnation from pan-democrats, as well as criticism from Executive Council member Ronny Tong, who warned that Ho’s remarks may be criminal even if he was speaking figuratively. The comments were also apparently denounced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, though she did not mention names, and declined to respond about the  legality of the remarks.

Ho defended himself in a Facebook post on Tuesday, claiming that the rural leader uttered the word “to stop” instead of “to kill,” which sound the same in Chinese. He also claimed that the word “kill” has multiple meanings and may not be advocating actual murder.

But when he defended his words on the radio on Monday, Ho said: “If those who are pro-independence lead to the subversion of the fate of the country… why shouldn’t these people be killed?” He also compared the fight against independence to fighting a war, saying: “What’s wrong with killing enemies in a war?”

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.