Five people, including two minors, have been arrested after they allegedly behaved in a disorderly manner at a Hong Kong retail chain store, whose owner is set to testify against his co-defendants in the city’s largest national security trial.
The police arrested five males aged 14 to 28 on Monday night and early Tuesday morning in Kwai Chung, Kowloon City, and Hung Hom, after receiving a call from a staff member of an AbouThai branch on Nathan Road, Mong Kok on Monday morning.
The AbouThai employee told the police that around five men had visited the Mong Kok store last Friday night, where they had shouted and harassed customers. Two of them returned the next evening, the employee said.
According to HK01, the shop’ owner’s manager said that several men barged into the shop shouting the name of the retail chain’s founder, Mike Lam, and demanding to meet with him.
The incidents took place after reports emerged that Lam, one of 47 democrats charged with conspiring to commit subversion, would testify against his co-defendants.
It was confirmed by the prosecution on Monday, the first day of the long-awaited trial, that the businessman will be a prosecution witness.
The group of pro-democracy activists were charged under the national security law over their roles in an unofficial primary election ahead of the 2020 Legislative Council election, which was later postponed. Lam initially indicated that he would enter a not guilty plea, before formally pleading guilty on Monday. The trial against 16 of Lam’s co-defendants who pleaded not guilty entered its second of 90 days on Tuesday.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit subversion is life imprisonment.
The five arrested were detained in police custody as investigation continued.
In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.
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