A Hong Kong court has granted a temporary injunction to block messages inciting violence on messaging app Telegram and the Reddit-like forum LIHKG – two of the most popular communication channels in the city’s protest movement.

The Secretary for Justice, in her capacity as “guardian of the public interest,” applied for an injunction at the High Court of Thursday. The application asked that the court restrain anyone from “disseminating, circulating, publishing, or re-publishing” any information or material that “promotes, encourages or incites” the use or threat of violence, intended or likely to cause bodily injury or property damage.

The injunction application lists Telegram and LIHKG as examples, but said it would apply to other online forums and communication software as well.

high court
File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Judge Russell Adam Coleman granted the interim injunction, which will stay in place until a formal hearing for the application is heard on November 15.

The injunction came after fears earlier this month that Chief Executive Carrie Lam would use the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO) to pass laws to restrict internet activity. At the time, Lam said she had no plans for further emergency legislation after the ban on face covering at protests.

The government has applied for multiple court injunctions in a bid to curtail protests, which have entered their 21st week. Hong Kong courts have previously granted injunctions to bar the public from inspecting the voters registry, to block the disclosure of personal data of police officers and their extended family, and to stop people from occupying or defacing the disciplined services quarters and police married quarters.

July 1 china extradition protest
Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Protests first sparked by the now withdrawn extradition law have continued since June. They have evolved into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police action, calls for democracy, and anger over Beijing’s encroachment. Though the bill was axed, demonstrators are demanding an independent probe into police behaviour, amnesty for those arrested, universal suffrage and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.”

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Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.