Hong Kong’s newly appointed security chief has said people who sympathise with a man who killed himself after stabbing a policeman and those who attempt to trivialise the attack should be condemned and made pariahs.

During his first appearance at a Legislative Council, former police chief Chris Tang told lawmakers that public tributes could lead to further attacks: “Today, it’s sympathising, tomorrow it’s supporting, the day after it’s taking part.”

Chris Tang
The newly appointed Secretary for Security Chris Tang in his first Legislative Council meeting on July 6, 2021. Photo: LegCo, via video screenshot.

Tang’s comments came as some people tried to pay tribute to the 50-year-old attacker by laying flowers in Causeway Bay, after he categorised the incident as a “lone wolf terrorist attack” last Friday.

Lawmakers asked Tang how the government could prevent people from turning the man who stabbed the 28-year-old police officer into a martyr.

Last Sunday, University of Hong Kong law professor, Johannes Chan, said that people might be mourning the death of the attacker out of sympathy or to express discontent towards the government, and this was very different from promoting terrorism, RTHK reported.

Chan said that while the violent act itself should be condemned, any suggestion that laying flowers to mourn the death of the man who carried it out might be illegal was far-fetched.

Several lawmakers referred to Chan’s comments on Tuesday without naming him, including DAB legislator Leung Che-cheung, who asked Tang whether such comments would be seen by the authorities as a type of terrorist activity.

police stabbing sogo
Photo: Michael Ho/StudioIncendo.

The former police chief responded: “When you encourage people to sympathise, just as I said, sympathy turns into support, and support into participation, these are very dangerous and immoral forms of behaviour,” said Tang. “I hope that this law professor can sleep at night, because you might have filled Hong Kong with bloodshed.”

Tang also said that officials will investigate online forums such as LIHKG for “illegal messages,” and would ask internet moderators to delete some messages if there were legal grounds.

‘Fake news’ in attacker’s home

The police claimed they found “fake news” at the attacker’s home after officers conducted further investigation into the attack on the evening of the 24th anniversary of the city’s Handover.

Senior Superintendent of Police National Security Department, Steve Li said on Tuesday that the force found a large amount of newspapers, the majority of which were “inciting hate and fake news.”

Steve Li
Senior Superintendent of the National Security Police Steve Li. Photo: Hong Kong Police, via video screenshot.

Li refused to name the newspaper, or newspapers that the authorities found.

The senior superintendent also refused to say categorically whether laying flowers to mourn the attacker was against the law, but added that the police do not recommend “these so-called mourning rituals.”

Li said the police will continue their investigation into whether the attacker had any accomplices, or whether the man was manipulated or incited by other people.

The 28-year-old officer – who was on duty as a member of the Police Tactical Unit at the time of the attack remains in a stable condition in hospital.

💡If you are in need of support, please call: The Samaritans 2896 0000 (24-hour, multilingual), Suicide Prevention Centre 2382 0000 or the Social Welfare Department 2343 2255. The Hong Kong Society of Counselling and Psychology provides a WhatsApp hotline in English and Chinese: 6218 1084. See also: HKFP’s comprehensive guide to mental health services in Hong Kong.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.