Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo has said that it was “completely groundless” for security chief John Lee to claim that some Hong Kong protesters had received training overseas.

Lee was responding to a question at the legislature on Wednesday about whether weapons seized from demonstrators could be linked to foreign terror organisations.

January 1 mak
Photo: May James/HKFP.

Lee said there was no evidence of terror links but some demonstrators may have received training from people abroad “because we saw that they were organised… Each of their actions had a goal and a plot. Such organised acts, we believe, were not done by an unorganised mob.”

“The resources involved, we believe, were not something that a few people can easily achieve together,” he added. “We can see online media reports that some foreign organisations trained people around the world to participate in anti-government movements. We don’t know the content. But according to media reports, intelligence and signs that we can see, we believe that some people who committed riotous acts received training.”

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Protests broke out last June over a now-axed extradition bill. They have morphed into sometimes violent displays of dissent against Beijing, and in favour of democracy and police accountability.

‘Most irresponsible’

Mo told HKFP on Wednesday that Lee’s assertion was “perfectly ridiculous.”

“I was quite taken aback and then amused by this most irresponsible statement from a government official. This person is Hong Kong’s supposed security chief and yet he could talk about ‘foreign’ training in this context quite so casually, without citing any source let alone giving any hard evidence,” the legislator said.

Claudia Mo
Claudia Mo. File photo:

“Lee was speaking on behalf of the government and yet he kept giving his personal impressions, and only managed to say how he was awed by the high-grade protest campaign material,” she added. “He sounded like a puppet relaying the master’s ventriloquist speech.”

Mo said the comments reminded her of when then-leader Leung Chun-ying accused pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protesters of being backed by “foreign forces” in 2014. Leung promised evidence, but did not deliver any.

In an interview last June with HKFP, pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip also claimed the protests were “globally orchestrated,” albeit without citing evidence.

Police letter

Chief Superintendent Kwok Ka-chuen hit out at Mo this week after she claimed undercover police vandalised shops during a New Year’s Day protest. In a rare letter, Kwok accused her of making “wild accusations” on Monday, though Mo has said she was only citing what was reported in the news.

Witnesses told local media that black-clad officers were behind the vandalism – a claim the force have refuted.

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Tom founded Hong Kong Free Press in 2015 and is the editor-in-chief. In addition to editing, he is responsible for managing the newsroom and company - including fundraising, recruitment and overseeing HKFP's web presence and ethical guidelines.

He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He previously led an NGO advocating for domestic worker rights, and has contributed to the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Al-Jazeera and others.