Three Hong Kong student leaders, aged 18 to 20, have been arrested under the national security law for allegedly conspiring to incite subversion, partly because they allegedly attempted to recruit “like-minded people” in prison by providing gifts such as chocolate.

The three members of Student Politicism, including convenor Wong Yat-chin and secretary general Chan Chi-sum, were arrested early Monday. They are also alleged to have incited hatred against Hong Kong’s government by urging people not to use the LeaveHomeSafe Covid tracking app and by other means.

Senior Superintendent Steve Li. Photo: Hong Kong Police, via video screenshot.

Senior Superintendent Steve Li, spokesman for the national security unit, said the group “used street booths and social platforms to spread messages inciting hate against the government, disobedience to the law, and subversion.”

Li listed examples including the group urging people not to use the app. He said Student Politicism had claimed that “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” was not only a slogan, but a “national belief.”

Student Politicism Secretary General Chan Chi-sum. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Li said the group had suggested that people take martial arts training, as they “believed that when the time of revolution comes again, they needed everyone to be valiant to resist.”

“This last item was even more obvious: they said that apart from the Hong Kong communist regime their resistance also has to be targeted at the Chinese communist regime,” said Li.

‘A gathering spot’

National security police also searched a community centre in Mong Kok operated by Student Politicism which Li described as a “gathering spot” for its followers.

Items confiscated by the police from Student Politicism’s community space and warehouse. Photo: Hong Kong Police, via video screenshot.

According to the group’s Facebook posting, Student Politicism organises regular exhibitions, book club meetings, and workshops in the Mong Kok centre, as well as offering books for people to buy and exchange.

Police also searched the group’s storage space at a warehouse in Kwai Chung and confiscated items including dried fish snacks, M&M candies, bottles of body lotion, towels, postcards and flags.

Items confiscated by the police from Student Politicism’s community space and warehouse. Photo: Hong Kong Police, via video screenshot.

Li accused the group of ” systematically providing resources to like-minded people who are jailed,” and cited the Secretary for Security and the head of the correctional services as saying that those resources were useful in “recruiting followers in prisons.”

He said police would not rule out further arrests and would investigate the origins of the group’s funding as well as their donors.

Security chief Chris Tang early this month accused some groups of “monopolising” the supply of daily necessities for detainees. “Many people may wonder what the problem is with having one more hair clip, one more piece of chocolate. These signify privilege within prison walls,”

Smuggling such items inside to recruit followers and build influence would “create hatred towards the government and endanger national security,” Tang said.

The national security law criminalises subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, with penalties up to life imprisonment.

Candice Chau

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.