National security police arrested two men on Tuesday on suspicion of “doing an act or acts with seditious intention.” A police statement published on Tuesday evening identified the pair as “administrators of a social media group,” with local media reporting it was the Civil Servants Secrets Facebook page.

“They were suspected of publishing posts on that social media group to disseminate seditious messages that promote feelings of ill-will and enmity between different classes of the population of Hong Kong,” the police said.

civil servants secrets fb page
The “Civil Servants Secrets” Facebook page cannot be accessed. Photo: Screenshot.

Local media reported that the pair, aged 28 and 29, were civil servants employed at the Home Affairs Department (HAD) and the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO).

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.

‘Conduct and integrity’

“[T]he concerned civil servant has been interdicted,” an OGCIO spokesperson told HKFP. “The OGCIO attaches great importance to the integrity and conduct of its staff.  Any employee found to have committed an offence would be dealt with strictly in accordance with the law and established procedures.”

Civil Servants Central Government Offices
Civil Servants going to work at the Central Government Offices. File photo: GovHK.

The HAD said it would not comment on the case as it was under a police probe but said it was “in full co-operation with the enforcement agencies in their investigation.”

“The Home Affairs Department attaches great importance to staff conduct and integrity. Any unlawful acts or misconduct of our officers will be dealt with in accordance with the law and established procedures.”

Civil Servants Secrets

The Civil Servants Secrets page made posts – sometimes of a critical nature – relating to government policies. People could make submissions to reveal the internal operations of government departments or air grievances about rules and regulations imposed on civil servants.

The page is believed to have been closed down as it now displays a message saying “this content isn’t available right now.”

secret 2.0 page
A new page called “Civil Servants Secrets 2.0” was created on August 9, 2022. Photo: Screenshot, via Facebook.

One of the last posts made on the page featured a video of a police officer putting his firearms away and taking a nap while on duty, according to local media. Authorities later said the officer had violated regulations and had been transferred to other duties.

After the original Facebook page became inaccessible, HKFP found others had sprung up in its place. One, called Civil Servants Secrets 2.0, was created the same day the arrests were made.

2.0 IG
“Civil Servants Secrets 2.0” also had an Instagram account. Photo: Screenshot, via Instagram.

Police also conducted an investigation into five men aged 28 to 43, two of whom were arrested for fraud. Local media reported that the five were paramedics of the Fire Services Department (FSD).

Responding to an enquiry from HKFP, the FSD said that “Five employees of the Fire Services Department were being investigated by police, two of them were arrested for allegedly committing a crime,” adding that it had “nothing to supplement.”

The department said it would “handle each and every case of violation of the law and regulation seriously.”

Beijing-controlled newspapers Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po reported that the two arrested had allegedly submitted false positive rapid antigen Covid test results to obtain sick leave.

Police on Wednesday said all four people had been released on bail.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.