Officials suggested that jailed pro-democracy activists used candy and other items to "solicit followers" behind bars.
HONG KONG - As the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong has intensified over the past year, authorities have identified ado myriad of acts and articles which they believe could threaten national security. Mass protests . Informal elections . Sing slogans .
Add to this list: chocolate.
The city's top security official, Chris Tang, said last week that some people in Hong Kong jails were hoarding chocolates and hair clips - items allowed in limited number - to "build power" and "solicit adeptes, "with the possible aim of undermining the government.
" A lot of people may find this strange - they just have a few more hair clips, one more piece of chocolate, what's the problem? "il told reporters . Then he continued, "They are making other inmates feel their influence, and hence feel even more hatred for Hong Kong and central governments, and hence endanger national security. "
Mr. Tang n ' did not specify who he was accusing. His comments sparked disbelief from several prisoner rights advocates, one of whom called them "incomprehensible." But his remarks came in the midst of pressure from the authorities to cut off the growing number of pro-democracy activists jailed because of the wave of public support they generated. Image A photo provided by the Hong Kong government sho Chris Tang, city security secretary, sworn in this year by Carrie Lam, Managing Director of Hong Kong. Both have vowed to crush violent dissent. Credit ... Hong Kong Department of Information Services, via Reuters
Since Beijing imposed a broad law onnational security on Chinese territory in July 2020, more than 120 people were arrested, many of whom were refused bail before trial. Thousands more were arrested in connection with mass pro-democracy protests in 2019.
In response, a network of volunteers quickly responded emerged to support inmates. One group, the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, provided legal services and bail funds. Another, Wallfare, offered jailed protesters correspondents and supplies.
But in August, the 612 fund announced its dissolution, and this month , the police announced that they were organization investigation for potential national security breachesnal. On Tuesday, Wallfare said it was also in the process of shutting down; one founder said the group "really couldn't go on anymore.
The pressure on jailed protesters and their supporters is emblematic of a cold on the Hong Kong civil society. The government used the loosely-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 the the largest teachers 'union in town , recently closed their doors months hs.
Judge on Wednesday sentenced 12 people, including several former lawmakers, for organizing or participating in a vigil banned last year for victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 . Some were given suspended sentences, and others six to 10 months in prison .
Control extended to prisoners and their supporters. Hong Kong authorities also fined several people for gathering near prisoner transport vans to show their support.n to activists detained as they are transported from courthouses to prisons. The mobs have been accused of violating social distancing restrictions.
M's comments . Tang, Hong Kong's top security official, intervened after the city's correctional service announced thislast month he had carried out a surprise search of a prison for women. The search revealed that six women had "prohibited items", officials said. Local media reported that one of the women was a prominent pro-democracy activist. report was then confirmed by Woo Ying-ming, the head of the corrections department, in a title interview with The South China Morning Post .
Prison officials had "received information in recent days " that some people had "tried to strengthen the forces and incite others to participate," according to a press release from the department. other info.
Mr. Tang later mentioned hair clips and chocolates. At a press conference independent, he said these items were among the tactics used by some prisoners and their allies to undermine national security. Others, he said, understood the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund's practice of sending letters to detained protesters, urging them to "keep fighting". Still others, he added, have used their identities - as clergymen or local politicians, for example - as excuses to visit prisoners and then help them disseminate information.
His comments have since been echoed by other maintainers.
In his interview with The South China Morning Post, Mr. Woo said the guards had been tasked with producing daily reports on certain "influential figures" within the prison system. "This is how the groupes begin, as terrorist groups recruiting followers, "Woo said of the support some detainees receive, adding that the influence was " subliminal ".
Shiu Ka-chun, former opposition lawmaker and founder of Wallfare, called Mr. Tang's comments "incomprehensible," saying his group was doing "humanitarian work." But sign Of the pressures facing civil society, the comments also quickly inspired mistrust. Mr. Shiu, in an interview with local media , also said that the group would immediately discuss how to avoid any misunderstanding with the authorities. Image Shiu Ka-chun, founder of Wallfare, visits you inmates at Pik Uk Prison in Hong Kong in May. Credit ... Jessie Pang / Reuters
On Tuesday, Wallfare had a name ceded its dissolution.
After the announcement , some Hong Kong residents pledged to continue the group's work, albeit on a smaller scale.
Kenneth Cheung, a district councilor pro-democracy - a low-level elected official who oversees neighborhood work - said he visited the detained protesters several times a month. He said he would continue to do so, adding that after posting Wallfare's closure on Facebook, several voters asked him to donate the crack.elins or beef jerky to take him to jail.
But he admitted that he would most likely limit himself to bringing small gifts to individuals, while Wallfare was able to use its platform for advocate better conditions for detainees . He pointed out that he had no intention of creating a replacement organization of any kind.
"Of course, having an organization and a platform is the best, "he said. "But for now, we all know that under pressure from the government they have no way to continue.
During at a press conference on Wallfare's decision, Mr. Shiu said he had not been personally contacted by officials.feeling from the government, but that "something had happened " on Sunday which led the group to vote unanimously for the shutdown.
"Under global governance, each civil society group will experience many different pressures," Shiu said, referring to the central government's mandate for its rule over Hong Kong. "Even existing can be a crime. Can be a crime. Can be a crime. -to be that staying here today is a crime. "
When asked how the detained people would get help in the was ure, he stopped, then choked. “Tears are truly our most universal language,” he said.
Tiffany May and Joy Dong contributing to reports.