Five months after Beijing imposed its controversial security law on Hong Kong, the city’s legislature has been emptied of all pan-democrats while police have made further arrests of opposition figures and journalists.
The Department of Justice launched appeals against court decisions in November to acquit alleged protesters and Chief Executive Carrie Lam stressed national security education in her policy address.
Elsewhere in the city, a local mask supplier ceased operations after pro-Beijing newspapers accused it of breaching the security law by selling protest-related designs.
HKFP continues its monthly roundup of developments shaping the city’s new normal.
November began with eight pro-democracy lawmakers being arrested for their behaviour during a chaotic episode in the Legislative Council chamber in May. Ted Hui, one of the eight, decried the arrests as “political oppression” after only democrats were arrested for scuffles involving lawmakers from both camps. They were accused of offences under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance.
Later in the month, Hui was again arrested under the same ordinance along with two of his former colleagues — Eddie Chu and Ray Chan — in connection with separate incidents, when the three threw foul-smelling substances in the chamber to protest against a bill criminalising insults to the Chinese national anthem.
RTHK freelance TV producer Choy Yuk-ling was arrested after she used public car registration records to track individuals present during the Yuen Long mob attacks, as part of an investigative programme which highlighted shortcomings in the police response.
Journalist groups decried Choy’s arrest as a breach of Carrie Lam’s repeated promises to safeguard press freedom, while Lam dismissed suggestions that the arrest was “selective.” The city’s number two official Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung later banned a planned protest against the arrest citing Covid-19, overturning an appeal earlier won by the Hong Kong Journalists Association allowing the march to take place.
Separately, police arrested and charged another reporter from a local media outlet for “obstruction” after she refused to stop filming arrests during a protest in Mong Kok in May.
Activists arrested and detained
Activist and former member of pro-independence group Studentlocalism Tim Luk was arrested by national security officers for allegedly “assisting fugitives.” The alleged offence was reportedly linked to last month’s arrest of activist Tony Chung near the US consulate.
Late in the month, prominent activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam pleaded guilty to charges related to unlawful assembly in 2019. The three remain in custody as they await sentencing in early December. Wong is reportedly being held in solitary confinement.
DOJ seeks security judge to handle case, appeals against protest acquittals
The Department of Justice (DOJ) asked a court to appoint a national security judge to oversee a hearing involving pro-democracy activist Tam Tak-chi, even though Tam has been charged with sedition under a colonial-era law rather than under the new national security law.
The DOJ also filed an appeal against a District Court decision to withdraw rioting charges against a social worker and acquit seven others arrested near protests in Wan Chai last August. The court cited a lack of evidence.
Separately, the Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng effectively terminated a private assault prosecution launched by democrat Ray Chan against pro-Beijing lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung. Footage shows Kwok dragging Chan across the chamber floor by his collar during the chaotic House Committee session in May.
Opposition legislators ousted, democrats resign
Lam’s administration ousted four opposition leaders — Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki, Kenneth Leung and Dennis Kwok — after China’s top legislative body granted it the power to disqualify legislators deemed to be “unpatriotic” or in breach of their oaths of loyalty.
Later the same day, the entire 15-strong democratic camp announced its resignation in solidarity with the four, leaving the legislature with no opposition.
The move to oust the four drew fierce criticism. The city’s lawyers voiced serious concerns over the legality of the decision while foreign governments accused Beijing of breaching its international obligations.
Lam insisted the shrunken legislature would not become a “rubber-stamp” while Beijing called the mass resignation a “blatant challenge” to central authorities. Lam also announced plans to incorporate Beijing’s decision in Hong Kong law.
Local mask business ceases operations
A local mask manufacturer temporarily ceased operations after pro-Beijing newspapers claimed it had breached the security law for selling yellow masks bearing protest-related slogans.
National Security officers raid CUHK campus
Around 40 national security police officers visited the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong the day after some 100 graduating students staged a protest, displaying and shouting banned slogans. The university’s administration had reported “illegal acts and irresponsible behaviour” to the force in response to the student protest. The protest was a rare show of open defiance against the security law since its passing on June 30.
Earlier this month, the university had warned its students against “illegal use of portraits” at an exhibition marking the first anniversary of the police siege of its campus, which saw fierce clashes.
National security education made a priority
Lam announced an increased focus on national security education within the community and in primary and secondary schools during her annual policy address. The justice department will implement a 10-year plan focused on educating young people on a “proper understanding” of the rule of law and fostering “law-abiding awareness.” The Education Bureau aims to implement a curriculum designed to inculcate a sense of Chinese identity and responsibility towards the state.
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