National security police in Hong Kong will show no leniency in an ongoing crackdown on dissent and political opposition in the city, China’s security czar for Hong Kong warned on Monday.
Speaking after Hongkonger Leung Kin-fai stabbed a police officer before killing himself on July 1, the anniversary of the 1997 handover to China, Zheng Yanxiong, the hardline head of the Beijing’s National Security Administration in Hong Kong, said there should be no quarter given to protesters.
“We are no longer talking about a pro-democracy movement, calls for autonomy or freedom of speech,” Zheng said. “[We are talking about] the total subversion of the government and a violation of national sovereignty.”
“Extreme activities like rioting and hype have evolved into cruelty, and there can be no illusions or compromise when it comes to seriously anti-social crimes,” Zheng told a national security forum in Hong Kong on Monday. “There can be no quarter given to those who would take advantage, only the fight against them; only the law.”
Chen Dong, deputy director of Beijing’s Central Liaison Office in Hong Kong, said the attack showed that “the anti-China forces that disrupt Hong Kong have yet to be completely cleaned up.”
“Some people with ulterior motives even brazenly support and beautify violent behavior,” Chen said. “Some groups and individuals are still engaged in activities that disrupt Hong Kong, under the cloak of legal profession.”
His comments came after a court denied bail to barrister and rights activist Chow Hang-tung, who is accused of “inciting” others to take part in activities commemorating the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen massacre.
The stabbing incident is now under investigation by the national security police. The officer is now in a stable condition following the attack.
Police said the public shouldn’t “glorify, romanticize, make heroic and even rationalize blatant violence” by mourning the 50-year-old man’s death.
“It will incite further hatred, divide the society and eventually breach social order and endanger public safety, threatening everyone in Hong Kong,” secretary for security Chris Tang warned. “Members of the public should remain rational … and not tolerate or glorify violence.”
University of Hong Kong law professor Johannes Chan said the violence itself should be condemned, but questioned the legality of criminalizing mourners.
“There are many missing steps [in their logic],” he said, adding that the ‘red lines’ could easily be changed by officials under the current system.
“Today, they may say that calling [the man who died] a martyr is incitement, and tomorrow something else could be considered incitement,” he said.
University of Hong Kong social work professor Paul Yip said the appropriate mode of investigation for the man’s suicide would be the coroner’s court.
“If it were to go through the Coroner’s Court, we would gain a clearer understanding of the incident, which would be much better,” Yip said.
“Citizens will have different feelings about this incident, and they should be allowed to express their grief in appropriate ways,” he said. “To grieve isn’t necessarily to identify with the attacker’s behavior; it could be a form of grief for the city generally.”
National Security Law for Hong Kong
Leung, 50, died outside the Sogo Department Store last Thursday night after stabbing himself in the chest. Local media reports said he had left a suicide note criticizing a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong a year earlier by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The note was critical of the police and contained views on how the national security law had undermined people’s freedom, government broadcaster RTHK cited sources as saying
China’s imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong from July 1, 2020 has been widely criticized by foreign governments and rights organizations as a means for the authorities to roll back human rights protections that were promised to the city’s seven million inhabitants under the terms of the 1997 handover.
The law criminalizes public dissent and publications critical of the government, and has led to an ever-widening crackdown on opposition lawmakers, rights activists, and journalists critical of Chinese and Hong Kong officials.
Defendants under the law are often denied bail, and cases brought under the law are heard by a panel of hand-picked judges, rather than by a jury, as was previously the norm in the Hong Kong legal system.
Hong Kong’s police force were also strongly criticized for excessive use of force during the 2019 protest movement, and for curbing citizens’ right to assemble and protest peacefully.
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