Two men have been arrested by officers from the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force on suspicion of publishing social media posts that were said to have incited violence. Sources told local media that both suspects were civil servants.
A 34-year-old man and a 36-year-old man were apprehended on Monday morning in Wan Chai and Central, respectively, after they allegedly breached the colonial-era Crimes Ordinance by disseminating what the police described as seditious messages on social media.
“[The messages] promote feelings of ill-will and enmity between different classes of the population of Hong Kong and incite the use of violence,” police said in a statement issued on Monday evening.
Citing sources, local media reported that the suspects made “anti-government” posts on platforms including Facebook and discussion forum LIHKG. They also allegedly shared posts that promoted Hong Kong independence and incited others to use violence, the reports said.
Local media quoted sources as saying that both arrestees were government workers. The 34-year-old arrestee was reportedly a computer technician at the Inland Revenue Department, while the 36-year-old was said to work at the Immigration Department.
Police said the 36-year-old was also suspected of voyeurism and “publication of images originating from commission of voyeurism,” after officers from the national security unit found he had taken indecent photos of an individual and shared them on social platforms.
The Immigration Department told HKFP on Tuesday that it would not comment on the case, as it was still being investigated by the police. Any immigration personnel found to have committed misconduct or unlawful acts would be solemnly dealt with in accordance with the law and established procedures, the disciplined force said, adding it would fully cooperate with the probe by the relevant law enforcement agency.
In response to HKFP’s enquiries, the Inland Revenue Department said it would “fully cooperate” with the police investigation and provide assistance if needed. The department said it would not comment on the relevant case, citing an ongoing investigation.
“The Inland Revenue Department values honesty and conduct of its staff. If a staff member is found to have illegal behaviour, the Inland Revenue Department would handle it solemnly in accordance with the law, and refer it to the relevant enforcement organisation for follow-up,” it said.
The Force searched the homes of the two arrestees with a court warrant and seized communication devices suspected of being used to publish the alleged seditious messages and indecent images. Both suspects have been detained for further investigation.
Sedition is not covered by the Beijing-imposed national security law, which targets secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts and mandates up to life imprisonment. Those convicted under the sedition law, which was last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still a British colony, face a less serious maximum penalty of two years in prison.
As of July 22, a total of 208 people had been arrested over national security-related offences – including sedition – since the Beijing-enacted law came into force on June 30, 2020. So far, 127 individuals and five companies have been charged, and 13 people have been convicted.