Four new arrests in pro-democracy circles in Hong Kong

They had expressed their “deep sadness” after the death of a man who stabbed a policeman. Apology for terrorism is punishable by ten years’ imprisonment in Hong Kong.

Four student leaders of a major Hong Kong University were arrested on Wednesday 18 August for an “apology of terrorism”, the police announced. A controversial statement issued in July by a student union after a police officer was stabbed by a man acting alone was behind the arrests, said Steve Li of the new police unit in charge of implementing the National Security Act.

“Four men aged 18 to 20 were arrested today, they are members of the student union and the student union council,” he told reporters. On July 1, a 50-year-old man attacked a police officer with a knife before turning the weapon on himself and killing himself. The authorities considered this act to be “domestic terrorism”. Shortly afterward, the Hong Kong University (HKU) student union issued a statement expressing its “deep sadness” at the death of the attacker and its gratitude for his “sacrifice.

More than 30 unions and parties dissolved in 2020

This statement caused a great deal of controversy. The union has since retracted the statement and apologized for the language used. “It sublimated, rationalized, and glorified terrorism and an attack, as well as encouraging suicidal acts,” Li said. In July, police searched the union’s offices, the university’s TV station, and a student office. The HKU administration also banned all members of the union’s council from campus.

Advocacy of terrorism is punishable by 10 years in prison and falls under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, imposed last year by Beijing in response to the huge pro-democracy movement of 2019. The draconian law aims to punish subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces. Terrorism charges have so far been rarer. Last year, more than 30 unions and political parties were dissolved following investigations by the authorities.

On Wednesday, the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund became the latest of the organizations supporting pro-democracy protesters to announce its dissolution. Pro-Beijing media called it a “fundraising platform for thugs” and called for its demise.