Two men have been arrested after they allegedly used the internet to incite others to spread the Covid-19 virus, police have said.

A screenshot from the police press briefing on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Photo: HK police.

The force conducted an operation against individuals who “voiced opposition against government Covid-19 policies on social media and online forums and violated Covid-19 rules,” police Superintendent Wilson Tam of the technology crime unit said during a press briefing on Tuesday.

Aged 22 and 31, the men were arrested on Monday in Kwai Chung and in Tin Shui Wai respectively on suspicion of violating a rule under Cap. 599A. The legislation forbids a person who knows they have a specified infectious disease – or are a close contact – from exposing others to the risk of infection with their presence or conduct in public.

“They were Covid-19 patients who knew they were infected, but disregarded government isolation orders and claimed on social media platforms that they went to restaurants to spread the virus,” Tam said.

Superintendent of Police Wilson Tam. Photo: HK Police screenshot.

Screenshots shown by police at the briefing indicated that the 22-year-old allegedly posted a photo of a positive rapid antigen test result to Facebook, along with a caption asking for recommendations of pro-government eateries in Yuen Long.

Other excerpts taken from the popular LIHKG forum showed a user making claims that “there would be a major outbreak in Hong Kong and in the mainland.” The content was partially censored during the police briefing.

An archived page from LIHKG, identical to the police screenshots and reviewed by HKFP, showed that the user claimed in a February 11 post that Chief Executive Carrie Lam had conspired to cause a major outbreak in Hong Kong. The user claimed she would then request help from the central government, prompting infected personnel to be sent from the mainland. The situation could fuel tensions between the two territories or spread the coronavirus to the mainland: “Carrie Lam’s conspiracy would then succeed,” the user wrote.

There is no basis for the claims.

Hong Kong officials greeted the arrival of mainland medics to Hong Kong on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

Tam alleged that the man concerned also incited others to use violence against police officers last July.

Meanwhile, the 31-year-old man was accused by police of visiting restaurants after he received positive Covid-19 test results. Police did not show evidence of his online speech during the press briefing.

The men “knowingly spread the virus after being diagnosed with Covid-19, in disregard of others’ safety and public health,” Tam said, adding that police “strongly condemned such selfish and irresponsible acts.” Both men were released on police bail.

At least four individuals have been arrested by police for allegedly violating the same rule under Cap 599A since February, two of whom were charged in court.

Hong Kong recorded 733,785 Covid-19 cases and 4,279 deaths as of Monday.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.