As Hong Kong enters its second Christmas season under the national security law, two more activists have been sentenced to years behind bars for security crimes while more businesses and media outlets have left the city. M+, the hotly-anticipated contemporary arts museum, finally opened after years of delay amid fears of curbs on artistic freedoms in the city.
The city is also gearing up for its first “patriots-only” legislative elections on December 19, as uncertainty lingers over whether blank protest votes will be allowed.
Since the law’s enactment 17 months ago, at least 50 civil society groups, including unions, churches and political parties, have decided to disband. HKFP continues its monthly roundup of developments.
Two more jailings
November saw two more people jailed under the national security law. An activist who proclaimed pro-independence slogans both online and in public was sentenced to almost six years in prison for inciting secession. The sentence on Ma Chun-man, the second under the new legislation, marked the first time a person has been put behind bars for purely speech-based crimes.
Later in the month, student localist activist Tony Chung was sentenced to three years and seven months after pleading guilty to secession under the security law and a charge related to money laundering. The activist said he had “no shame in his heart” during his plea hearing. The 20-year-old became the third and youngest person to be jailed under the legislation.
As at November 29, 155 people have been arrested on suspicion of breaching the national security law. Among them, 100 were charged and four companies were also prosecuted for allegedly violating the security legislation.
200,000 national security tips
The police announced they received over 200,000 tips, averaging around 550 a day, via a dedicated hotline for national security crimes in its first year of operation.
Warnings against inciting protest votes
The city’s security chief warned Hongkongers against calling on others to cast blank or invalid protest votes ahead of the first “patriots-only” elections in December, saying it may constitute a breach of the national security law.
The warning came after former lawmaker in self-exile Ted Hui urged Hongkongers to cast blank or invalid votes to protest at Beijing’s encroachment on the city’s autonomy. Hui, along with another former politician in self-exile, is now wanted by the ICAC for breaching the city’s electoral laws by inciting protest votes.
The elections are the first LegCo poll since Beijing drastically overhauled the electoral system, sharply reducing democratic representation and making it much harder for pro-democracy candidates to run.
Arrests over universal suffrage banner
The month began with the arrest of four seniors for “seditious intent” over a banner calling for democracy and universal suffrage. The four have since been released on bail.
More blows to press
Local media outlet, DB channel, announced it would shut operations in Hong Kong after its co-founder Frankie Fung was denied bail under the national security law. Fung is among the 47 democrats facing subversion charges over last year’s informal democratic primary poll.
The outlet becomes the second media outlet to move operations out of the city after Initium’s announcement in August.
Also this month, the China correspondent for The Economist was refused permission to renew her visa, without explanation. Leader Carrie Lam declined to comment on the refusal but said every administration has the right to deny visas.
Pro-democracy business leaves
Similarly, local clothing company Chickeeduck, a staunch supporter of the flagging pro-democracy movement, announced it would move its operations out of Hong Kong. Its owner told HKFP the decision was prompted by concerns for his staff’s safety and welfare after what he called months of anonymous harassment, and increasing challenges in operating the business.
The company’s stores have previously been searched by police, while one landlord has demanded it remove pro-democracy symbols from one of its outlets. Earlier in November, authorities also demanded the business remove a statue of Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Chinese dissident Liu Xiabo from one of its store entrances.
Two films were banned from a student film festival after Hong Kong’s film authority refused to grant approval.
One of the two failed to receive approval after the director refused to cut scenes relating to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s re-election in 2020, while the other student film tackled issues of “totalitarian rule, capitalism, freedom and resistance.”
Meanwhile, the new streaming service Disney+ appeared to have made an episode of popular American cartoon The Simpsons unavailable on Hong Kong servers. The episode included references to the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre and ensuing Chinese censorship of news of the crackdown.