Latest Threat to Hong Kong’s National Security: Chocolates in Prison

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Authorities have suggested that jailed pro-democracy activists are using sweets and other items to “followers” behind bars.

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HONG KONG – As Hong Kong crackdown on dissent has intensified over the past year, officials have singled out myriad acts and items that they say could threaten national security. massive protest. informal election. chanting slogans.

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Add to that list: Chocolate.

The city’s top security official, Chris Tang, said last week that some people in Hong Kong prisons were hoarding chocolates and hair clips – a limited number of permitted items – to “build up power” and “with the potential goal of reducing followers.” With “Govt.

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“To many people may find this strange – they just have a few more hair clips, another piece of chocolate, what’s the problem?” He told reporters. He then continued, “They make other people feel their influence in prison, and from there feel even more hatred for Hong Kong and the central governments, and from there endanger national security.”

Mr. Tang did not say who they were accusing. His comments inspired incredulity from many prisoners’ rights advocates, one of whom called him “incomprehensible”. But his remarks came amid a push by authorities to cut a growing number of pro-democracy activists imprisoned in Hong Kong on grounds of public support he has inspired.

Since Beijing imposed a comprehensive national security law on Chinese territory in July 2020, more than 120 people have been arrested, many denied bail before trial. Thousands more have been arrested in 2019 in connection with the massive pro-democracy protests.

In response, a network of volunteers quickly emerged to support the detainees. One group, the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, provided legal services and bail money. Another, Wallfair, offered pens and supplies to jailed protesters.

But in August, the 612 Fund announced it was disbanding, and this month, police announced they were Organization check for potential national security breaches. On Tuesday, Wallfair said that that too was closing; One founder said that the group “really couldn’t run anymore.”

The pressure on the jailed protesters and their supporters is a symbol of the widespread, rapidly spreading cold on Hong Kong’s civil society. The government has used the vaguely worded security law to suggest that even expressions of sympathy for anti-government figures may be illegal. Dozens of pro-democracy groups, including churches And this city’s largest teachers union, have closed in recent months.

On Wednesday, a judge sentenced 12 people, including several former lawmakers, for organizing or participating in last year’s restricted surveillance for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Some received suspended sentences, and others six to 10 months in jail.

The investigation has reached the detainees and their supporters. Hong Kong authorities have fined several people for gathering near prisoner transport vans to show support for detained activists as they are escorted from courthouses to prisons. The crowd has been accused of violating social distancing.

Mr Tang’s remarks from Hong Kong’s top security official came after the city’s Department of Corrections announced This month he conducted a surprise search of a women’s prison. Officials said the search found the six women had “banned articles”. Local news media reported that one of the women was a prominent pro-democracy activist. Aspects of the report were later confirmed by the head of the Department of Corrections, Wu Ying-ming. Interview with South China Morning Post.

According to a news release from the department, prison officials had “received intelligence in recent days” that some people there “attempted to create force and incite others to participate”. It did not release further information.

Mr. Tang later mentioned the hair clips and chocolates. In an unrelated news conference, He said these items were part of a strategy that some prisoners and their allies were using to undermine national security. Others, he said, include the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund’s practice of sending letters to detained protesters, urging them to “keep fighting”. Still, he said, others used their identities – for example, as clergy or local politicians – as an excuse to help them meet with prisoners and then disseminate information to them.

His comments have since been echoed by other officials.

In his interview with The South China Morning Post, Mr Wu said guards were tasked with producing daily reports on some “impressive figures” within the prison system. “This is how groups begin, as terrorist groups recruit followers,” Mr Wu said of some of the detainees’ support, adding that the effect was “subliminal”.

Former opposition MP and Wallfair founder Shiu Ka-chun called Mr Tang’s comments “incomprehensible”, adding that his group was doing “humanitarian work”. But the comments also quickly prompted caution, in a sign of the pressures facing civil society. Mr. Xiu, In an interview with local news media, also said that the group will immediately discuss how to prevent any misunderstanding with the authorities.

As of Tuesday, Wallfair had announced its dissolution.

Following the announcement, some Hong Kong residents pledged to continue the group’s work, albeit on a smaller scale.

Pro-democracy district councilor Kenneth Cheung – a low-level elected official who oversees neighborhood work – said he had met with the detained protesters several times a month. He said he would continue to do so, adding that after Wallfair posted about the shutdown on Facebook, several constituents had reached out to him about donning firecrackers or beef jerky to take him to jail.

But he acknowledged that he would be limited to taking small gifts to individuals, while Wallfair was able to use his platform. Advocating for better conditions for the prisoner. He emphasized that he has no plans to start any kind of replacement organization.

“Of course it’s best to have one organization and one platform,” he said. “But right now, we all know, under pressure from the government, they have no way of moving forward.”

At a news conference about Wallfair’s decision, Mr. Shiu said he had not been contacted personally by government officials, but “something had happened” on Sunday that caused the group to vote unanimously to close. fell.

“Under comprehensive governance, every group in civil society will endure many different pressures,” Mr Shiu said, referring to the central government’s tenure for its rule over Hong Kong. “Even the present can be a crime. Perhaps it is a crime to stand here today.”

When asked how the detained people would get support in future, he paused, then succumbed to his injuries. “Tears really are our most universal language,” he said.

at tiffany’s And joy dong Contributed reporting.

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