The start of the second year under the national security law has seen a man sentenced to nine years in prison, a national security police raid on another university, and five people arrested over a series of “seditious” children’s picture books about sheep.

Members from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions holding up paper masks of sheep at the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on July 23, 2021. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

HKFP continues its roundup on how the city’s space for dissent is shrinking.

First trial ends in 9-year sentence

The first trial under the national security law ended in a 24-year-old being sentenced to nine years in prison for inciting others to commit secession and carrying out terrorist activities.

Tong Ying-kit had driven a motorcycle into three police officers while flying a flag displaying the popular pro-democracy slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” at a demonstration on July 1 last year, the day after the security law came into force.

Supporters of Tong Ying-kit, Hong Kong’s first man to be convicted under the national security law, place leaflets in a mall adjacent to the High Court to wish the activist “peace and safety,” after he was sentenced to nine years behind bars on July 30, 2021. Photo: Studio Incendo.

He was convicted by a panel of three appointed national security judges, after the court agreed with the Department of Justice and denied him a trial by jury. The judges found the slogan capable of carrying secessionist intent. The conviction and sentencing sets a precedent for all future trials under the national security law.

Police state?

Secretary for Security and former deputy police chief John Lee was promoted to become the city’s second-highest ranking official, replacing Matthew Cheung as Chief Secretary. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said Lee will focus on matters of national security in his new post and not social issues.

Police chief Chris Tang was also handed a promotion to become the new Secretary for Security.

Journalists arrested and denied bail

Three more senior executives and one editorial writer for Hong Kong’s now defunct pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper were arrested and denied bail. The four stand accused of conspiring to collude with foreign forces to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials.

Apple Daily headquarters. Photo: Selina Cheng.

Seven of the newspaper’s employees have now been charged under the national security law, including the newspaper’s founder Jimmy Lai.

Publishers reported at book fair

Hong Kong’s first book fair under the security law saw pro-Beijing groups filing reports against publishers for selling books they considered to run afoul of the legislation. Books included titles written by journalists about the 2019 protests, works by pro-democracy activists, and George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Five arrested for ‘seditious’ children’s book

National security police arrested five speech therapists from its trade union over the publication of allegedly “seditious” children’s books. The three books told allegorical stories of sheep protecting their village from wolves. The police said the stories “incited hatred against the government.”

Steve Li, senior superintendent of the Police National Security Department, at a press conference on Thursday explaining allegedly seditious children’s books. Photo: Hong Kong Police, via Facebook screenshot.

Two leaders of the union, aged 25 and 27, have been charged under a colonial-era law with “conspiring to print, publish, distribute, display or reproduce seditious publications” and denied bail. Police have also frozen HK$160,000 of the union’s assets.

Gov’t cuts ties with teachers union

Pressure on pro-democracy unions intensified as the Education Bureau announced it would cease working with the city’s largest teachers’ union, hours after Chinese state media outlets attacked the group.

The bureau accused the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, which represents 90 per cent of the city’s educators, of “dragging schools into politics” and said it would no longer consult with its members or recognise its training courses.

National security raid on university

National security police raided the premises of the University of Hong Kong’s student union and campus press, days after the city’s leader called for further police investigation into a union statement that described the suicide of a man who stabbed a police officer as a “sacrifice.”

Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

HKU’s student leaders had already apologised and stepped down over the retracted statement. Its student reporters said dozens of police took a computer and documents from its newsroom as evidence.

Earlier that week, university personnel had pulled down all pro-democracy displays from its campus walls.

Dwindling pro-democracy groups

Organisers of the annual Tiananmen Square Massacre vigil, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, fired all of its staff and reduced the size of its executive committee. The group cited “severe and obvious political repression.”

Chow Hang-tung, vice-chair of the Alliance. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Also in July, the group was fined HK$8,000 for operating the now-shuttered June 4th museum without an entertainment licence, while its vice-chair was denied bail on charges of “inciting others to participate in an unauthorised assembly” over this year’s banned vigil.

The increasing pressure on pro-democracy groups has prompted more organisations to disband, including lawyer groups.

Teenagers arrested for alleged terrorist plot

Police arrested a total of 14 people over an alleged city-wide plan to bomb courthouses and transport systems. The group included members of a self-proclaimed revolutionary group called Returning Valiant. The youngest suspect is 15 years old.

At least three of the group have been charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist activities.

Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.