A man was arrested in Hong Kong while trying to board a flight out of the city for wearing a T-shirt with a banned protest slogan printed on it. He has been charged with “sedition” under colonial-era laws. The man, identified as Chu Kai-poon, 26, was charged with “committing one or more acts with seditious intent,” “possession of seditious publications” and “possessing other people’s ID cards”.
According to a government statement, the man was reported to police for wearing a shirt emblazoned with the banned 2019 protest slogan, “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now!” and “Independence for Hong Kong,” as well as a “Free Hong Kong” flag. The arrest is part of a string of “sedition” cases in Hong Kong, which carry a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment and are used alongside a draconian national security law to target peaceful criticism of the authorities.
In July 2021, a motorcyclist Tong Ying-kit was jailed for nine years for “terrorism” and “secession” under the National Security Law, after he flew the “Free Hong Kong” slogan from his bike during a street protest. Police later confirmed the incident and said the 21-year-old man, surnamed Chan, had been allowed to leave with a warning.
Chu’s arrest came after police questioned a lone protester on Sunday after he stood on the street outside the Sogo Department Store in Causeway Bay holding up a sheet of white paper, marking the anniversary of the 2022 “white paper” movement. The man stood there for some 30 minutes before he was approached by police. Police then turned up and searched the man, checking his ID and asking if he was alone.
U.S.-based political commentator Hu Ping said a lone protest – like that of the Beijing “Bridge Man” in 2022 – has a profound kind of symbolic power. “Some people are still willing to stand up … despite the high level of political pressure under the Chinese Communist Party’s introduction of the National Security Law in Hong Kong,” he said. Zhuang Jiaying, associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, said the white paper incident showed how widespread such sentiments are, despite huge government attempts to stamp out any form of protest. “Even Beijing has no way to prevent such things, so I don’t think it’s surprising that such incidents happen from time to time in Hong Kong,” he said.
Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Roseanne Gerin.