A 46-year-old man has been arrested by Hong Kong national security police in Hung Hom and charged over suspected “seditious” online content.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, police said they had charged a man with one count of “doing an act or acts with seditious intention,” adding that the case would be mentioned at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Tuesday afternoon.

Police officers
Police officers stationed outside the West Kowloon Law Courts Building as the national security trial against 47 democrats continues on April 24, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The man was arrested on Monday and accused of posting messages demanding sanctions against the government officials and inciting the use of violence, the police said in a separate statement. Such content may spark hatred of the Beijing and the Hong Kong governments, police added.

National security police searched his home and seized electronic devices on Monday.

The man, an office clerk, was suspected of publishing 49 articles on discussion forum LIHKG calling for sanctions and violent action to be taken against officials, local media reported citing sources.

Police said in the statement that the man, who had been detained for investigation, was suspected of “doing an act or acts with seditious intention.”

Forum LIHKG. Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

In the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and unrest, and following Beijing’s imposition of the national security law in 2020, the authorities have increasingly invoked the colonial-era sedition law, which laid dormant for over half a century until its revival.

Both sedition and national security law trials are handled by judges who have been handpicked to hear such cases, with sedition offences punishable by up to two years in prison for first-time offenders.

Hong Kong China flag patriotic national security
Chinese national flags and HKSAR regional flags. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

At least 20 of the more than 30 people charged with sedition have not been activists nor politicians, but ordinary people, from service industry workers to delivery staff, AFP reported in July.

Arrests over endangering national security

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.

As of August 18, 277 people have been arrested on suspicion of acts endangering national security since the legislation was enacted, the Security Bureau told HKFP. Among them, 161 people and five companies had been charged under the national security law or the sedition law or with other crimes.

Among the 84 persons who have been convicted or are awaiting sentencing, 30 were charged under the national security law.

The bureau did not reveal figures of arrests and charges under sedition law.

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Irene Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press and has an interest in covering political and social change. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Fudan University and a master’s degree in social work from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.