Hong Kong officials issued increasingly ominous warnings Monday and Tuesday that anyone expressing sympathy for the man who stabbed a police officer on July 1 could themselves be treated as domestic terrorists.
The attacker, 50-year-old Leung Kin-fai, used his knife to kill himself after stabbing a police officer in the back on July 1, when a heavy police presence was deployed across the city to protect the Chinese Communist Party’s 100th anniversary celebration.
Leung’s employer Vitasoy faced boycott threats from China after a company memo expressing sympathy to Leung’s family was posted online. Expressions of sympathy for Leung, including small physical memorials with flowers, quickly became a means for frustrated Hongkongers to defy the ruling regime.
The regime is responding with ham-fisted threats to prosecute anyone deemed excessively sympathetic to Leung under the draconian national security law China imposed on the city last summer. Hong Kong security chief Chris Tang made the threat explicit at a meeting of LegCo, the Hong Kong legislature, on Tuesday.
Pro-Beijing legislators asked Tang about some academics who have defended the expressions of sympathy for Leung as legitimate acts of human compassion for the dead man and his family. One professor cited in the legislative session, Johannes Chan of the University of Hong Kong, also defended mourners who wanted to demonstrate their discontent with the government and its national security law.
Tang lashed out at mourners for excusing or justifying the stabbing, which he said was an act of terrorism, and especially those who saluted Leung as a “righteous man.”
He wondered how Leung’s apologists could sleep at night, claiming Hong Kong faces a growing terrorism threat that could leave the city “painted in blood.”
When a legislator asked if Tang would prosecute Leung’s defenders as accessories to terrorism, he replied that it would depend on “individual cases” and “whether we have evidence to make arrests and make our prosecutions.”
“But irrespective of that, if you encourage people to sympathize with such attackers, then you are asking people to sympathize with such terrorists. Then they are going to support these terrorists, and ultimately they will become terrorists themselves,” Tang added.
The security chief said online communications would be carefully monitored to detect hints of extremism, and floated the possibility of new laws against “disinformation” to shut down provocative speech.
At a forum for the national security law on Monday, Tang made it clear he regards the Hong Kong democracy and independence movements as terrorist threats.
“The risk to national security has greatly reduced, but we cannot let our guard down,” Tang said at the forum. “Hong Kong independence activists have not given up. They adopt such ‘soft resistance’ ways of promoting the idea of Hong Kong independence through media, culture and the arts, and publications.”
Tang endorsed acts of censorship that have alarmed human rights activists around the world, such as Hong Kong banning documentary films about the 2019 pro-democracy movement.
Hong Kong police on Tuesday announced nine arrests in connection with an alleged terrorist bomb plot.
Most of the people arrested were teenage students. One of the older alleged conspirators was a Baptist University staffer whose assets were frozen after police accused him of bankrolling the operation. All of the detainees could face life in prison under the national security law.
Police said the six younger members of the plot were recruited by a group called “Returning Valiant” that promotes “Hong Kong independence” and promised to help the suspects flee the city after they constructed and detonated explosive devices.
Returning Valiant used its website to confirm that several of its members have been arrested. The group vowed to “continue to gather talents and fight against tyranny.”