Ahead of 25th anniversary of British handover, Hong Kong arrests 5 over sedition charges

Ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s potential visit and 25the anniversary of the British handover, Hong Kong’s national security police arrested five people for sedition charges.

On Friday, a Hong Kong court ordered two men remanded in custody pending trial over “seditious” posts on social media platforms LIHKG and Instagram respectively. Both were arrested a day before for posting “seditious content” on these online forums. The court found their content had the “intention of inciting hatred or contempt against the Central Government and the Hong Kong government”, according to the Hong Kong Free Press newspaper.

On Wednesday, police made three arrests in relation to a previous case involving a martial arts coach accused of running an armed separatist movement.

Officers arrested three men aged between 39 and 50 for sedition and said they seized “a large number of offensive weapons” including machetes, knives and swords from their residences.

This spate of arrests comes as the Hong Kong authorities have been on high alert as the city prepares for the July 1 ceremony, when a new government will be sworn in, and the former colony marks 25 years since its handover.

While past Chinese leaders tended to visit Hong Kong on key anniversaries, a potential visit by Xi next week has been complicated by the country’s zero-tolerance policy for coronavirus infection risks.

Sedition is outlawed in Hong Kong under the Crimes Ordinance which was last amended in the 1970s, when the city was under British colonial rule.

It is not part of the Beijing-imposed national security law that came into force on June 30, 2020, which targets secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts.

However, the courts apply a stricter bail threshold on those accused of sedition where they decide whether there are sufficient grounds for believing that the suspect would not continue to commit acts endangering national security.

(With inputs from agencies)