By Kelly Ho and Elson Tong
Beijing official Zhang Xiaoming has said people who spread rumours about the police beating citizens to death at Prince Edward MTR station last August may be deemed to be breaking the newly-enacted national security law.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Zhang – executive deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) – said such accusations against police could be seen as inciting hatred of the force – which may constitute an offence if it involved foreign collusion.
Under Article 29 of the national security law, it is an offence to request, conspire with, or receive support from foreign countries or elements to “provoke hatred” against the Hong Kong government.
“For example in last year’s [extradition bill] saga, I had a deep impression of this sudden rumour that people were beaten to death at Prince Edward Station,” said Zhang.
“This kind of act focuses all societal dissatisfaction towards the police out of nothing… acts targeting the Central Government with malice and serious consequences – that might have [legal] consequences”.
On August 31 last year, special tactical officers stormed into Prince Edward MTR station. They wielded batons and deployed pepper spray inside train carriages and on the platform, leaving dozens injured. Rumours of deaths arose after medical personnel and journalists were evicted from the station.
Zhang said that normal communications and interactions with foreign countries, or causing “normal hatred” without “serious consequences” would not amount to an offence.
He added that the purpose of the law was not to target Hong Kong’s opposition or pro-democracy camp as an “imagined enemy,” but said they may need to make “appropriate adjustments”.
Zhang also struck back at overseas governments who have imposed sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials in the wake of the promulgation of the national security law, calling these them “the logic of a robber.”
“There’s two phrases Hongkongers like to say,” replied Zhang in Cantonese. “‘What’s this got to do with you?’ and ‘It’s none of your business’.”