Secretary for Security Chris Tang confirms arrest of Tonyee Chow and 5 others for inciting citizens ahead of 4th June anniversary

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Chris Tang (left) and Tonyee Chow (right).

28th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) The Hong Kong police have made their first enforcement action under the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, a significant statute passed by the Legislative Council on 23rd March.

During a media briefing, Secretary for Security Chris Tang confirmed that the arrests were made earlier today by the National Security Department. Among those detained was Tonyee Chow Hang-tung, who is currently being held at the Tai Lam Centre for Women, a correctional facility.

According to Tang, the individuals were arrested for continuously posting incendiary content with the intention to provoke on a social media page named “Chow Hang-tung Club” using an anonymous account. He stressed that objective criticism of the government is permissible, and the implementation of Article 23 has not compromised any freedoms. Tang urged citizens to recognise that these individuals were not merely criticising the government but were inciting citizens to engage in actions that endanger national security.

Tang further mentioned that recent court cases have highlighted how words can translate into actions, and the acts of incitement and threats to national security can take various forms, even without the use of violence. He emphasized the paramount importance of national security and reminded the public of the events in 2019 when many citizens engaged in unlawful activities while the agitators enjoyed a life of luxury abroad. He called on citizens not to engage in actions that jeopardise national security.

Regarding the involvement of the other five individuals in operating social media platforms, Tang stated that they were found to be spreading hatred towards the Hong Kong and central governments, violating the National Security Law. However, he refrained from providing specific details as the investigation is ongoing.

When questioned about the “sensitive day,” Tang clarified that the specific date was not significant in itself. Instead, it was the act of utilising the day to incite hatred towards the Hong Kong government, central government, and judicial institutions that constituted the criminal offence. He did not address whether sharing information about the June 4th incident or participating in candlelight vigils was considered illegal.

Tang emphasised that the law enforcement actions taken by the police were based on evidence and the law, which is both necessary and universal among civilised governments worldwide. He highlighted the ongoing national security risks, including foreign forces attempting to interfere in Hong Kong affairs and discredit the local government. Tang urged vigilance against individuals who seek to participate in activities that undermine national security from overseas.

He also referred to previous court cases that emphasised the consequences of incitement, such as spreading rumours, false information, and misleading propaganda that erode public trust and foster hatred towards the government. Such actions can lead to social unrest and chaos, threatening national integrity and political independence. The six individuals arrested, five women and one man, are aged between 37 and 65, with one female currently held at the Tai Lam Centre for Women. It has been reported that Tonyee Chow Hang-tung, the former vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance, is among those arrested for posting incendiary content related to the 4th June incident on the Facebook page “Chow Hang-tung Club.”

The arrests were made under section 24 of the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, which pertains to “incitement with intent.” As part of the operation, the police obtained a court order to seize relevant items, including electronic communication devices allegedly used to disseminate provocative messages. The National Security Department apprehended the six individuals on charges of incitement under Article 23, marking the first arrests made under this provision.