The ex-convenor of pro-independence group Studentlocalism Tony Chung was released on bail without charge on Friday. However, police told the teen activist to remove social media posts under the Beijing-enacted national security law.
On Wednesday, the 19-year-old became the first political figure to be arrested on suspicion of inciting secession under the controversial legislation that also criminalises subversion, terrorist activities and collusion with foreign forces. Three other ex-members of Studentlocalism – aged 16 to 21 -were rounded up under the same alleged offence.
Speaking to reporters outside the Yuen Long police station where he was detained for 48 hours, Chung said he had to surrender his travel document and report to the police station every month.
The force also asked Chung to delete some social media posts within 72 hours. But the activist said the posts were made by a group founded by some former members of Studentlocalism and he had no connection to the posts in question.
Chung recalled his arrest on Wednesday, saying he was “kidnapped” by a group of men when he was on his way to report to the Mong Kok police station in relation to another case. He said the men brought him to a shopping centre where he was forced to unlock his phone.
The men later presented a warrant and went to search Chung’s home in Yuen Long for around four hours. According to the activist, officers took away his school report cards, Taiwan entry permits and other personal information which he deemed to be unrelated to the national security offence he was accused of.
“After 48 hours, although police took away so much evidence for investigation, they did not officially charge me. This leads me to question whether [the arrest] was political manipulation, rather than having evidence to show I had incited secession,” he said.
Chung added that police took a saliva sample and asked him to sign documents acknowledging that he had been accused of committing some “serious criminal offences.”
According to local media, the other three arrested ex-members were released on bail as well. They were barred from leaving Hong Kong during the coming six months.
The four arrests on Wednesday marked the first apprehensions by the new police national security department. Previous arrests under the national security legislation were made during street protests.
Police said on Wednesday night that the arrests were made based on social media content which conveyed calls to unite all pro-independence groups and establish a republic of Hong Kong. They did not name the groups or posts involved.
There has been speculation that the group concerned was the Initiative Independence Party, which said it was founded by former Studentlocalism members who had completed their studies and were based overseas.
In the group’s establishment declaration posted on July 21, it mentioned building a Hong Kong republic that is “solely sovereign to Hong Kong nationals” was the “only way out” for the city. It added: “[W]ith Hong Kong independence as our ultimate target, [we] will fight using any means possible in order to expel Chinese colonisers from our land.”