October began with National Day celebrations commemorating the 71st anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The public holiday was marred by a heavy police presence across the city which stifled planned pro-democracy demonstrations.
October also saw a teacher sacked for allegedly “spreading Hong Kong independence” while a localist activist became the second person to be charged with secession under the security law.
The law criminalises subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism — broadly defined to include interference with transport and other infrastructure. It has been fiercely criticised by right groups and has prompted US sanctions on Hong Kong and mainland officials.
HKFP continues its monthly round-up of developments shaping the city’s new normal. This is what happened in October:
1. Former police chief awarded city’s top honour
During the official ceremony commemorating National Day, former police chief chief Stephen Lo was awarded the Golden Bauhinia Star, the city’s highest honour. Lo received the award for his role in ensuring that Hong Kong remained “one of the safest and most stable societies in the world,” according to the government.
Under Lo’s leadership during last year’s city-wide pro-democracy protests, over 4,000 arrests were made and 1,600 people injured (the number of arrests has since topped 10,000) . He is one of the eleven top-level officials who have been sanctioned by the US for their roles in curbing human rights and freedoms in the city.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at the ceremony the law had “restored stability” to the city.
2. Hong Kong police introduce ‘news presenters,’ stifle planned demonstrations
Later on national day, police debuted their own “news presenters”, a week after revising guidelines which saw student journalists and freelancers excluded from their definition of “recognised media.”
Officers were heavily deployed across the city, stifling planned pro-democracy demonstrations and arresting at least 86 people including four district councillors.
Officers even stood guard near Lion Rock, a mountain overlooking the city which is often used to stage protests and display banners and symbols.
3. Primary school teacher sacked for allegedly advocating Hong Kong independence
The Education Bureau sacked a primary school teacher for allegedly advocating Hong Kong independence in his classroom. The decision was made after authorities conducted an investigation into complaints against the teacher.
Lam and Secretary of Education Kevin Yeung said the move was necessary to target “bad apples” within the profession while the Hong Kong Professional Teachers Union has lodged an appeal and accused authorities of spreading “white terror.”
4. Canada, Germany and US grant asylum to Hong Kong activists
Reports that Hong Kong activists have been granted asylum surfaced separately from Canada, Germany and the US. Refugee status is granted under international law to fugitives who can show a “well-founded fear of persecution” if they are returned to their place of origin.
Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung expressed displeasure during a meeting with the city’s German Consul General Dieter Lamlé, saying that the Hong Kong government “strongly objects” to the “harbouring of violent criminals.”
5. Civil servants must pledge allegiance to city
The government announced that civil servants who joined the administration after the enforcement of the security law must pledge allegiance to the city.
Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip said those who violate the mandatory oath of loyalty will be deemed to be “subverting” the government.
6. Arrest warrants issued for two exiled activists
Police issued arrest warrants for exiled activists Nathan Law and Sunny Cheung after they failed to attend a hearing over their alleged participation in the banned Tiananmen Square vigil on June 4. The vigil was banned under coronavirus public gathering restrictions.
Both Law and Cheung fled Hong Kong following Beijing’s passing of the security law. A total of 24 other activists have been arrested on suspicion of taking part in the vigil.
7. International scholars say law eroding academic freedoms
A coalition of over 100 international scholars issued a joint statement calling on academic institutions across the world to “unequivocally condemn” the security law, describing it as a ” direct assault” on academic freedoms.
The coalition of scholars from 16 different countries urged university leaders, academics and politicians to speak out against the law’s “chilling effect” and pre-emptive self-censorship.
8. Pro-Beijing lawmaker calls for probe into whether democrat filibustering violates law
Pro-establishment lawmaker Alice Mak called on the President of the Legislative Council Andrew Leung to investigate whether filibustering by democrats violates the security law.
“The national security law states that it is an offence if anyone seriously interferes in, disrupts, or undermines the performance of duties and functions in accordance with the law,” she said. “The president should consider whether the pan-democrats’ action constitutes a serious interference.”
9. Activist charged with secession
Localist activists Tony Chung, Yanni Ho and William Chan were once again detained under the security law after being arrested and released on bail without charge in late July. The three were members of the now defunct pro-independence group Studentlocalism.
Chung was later charged with inciting secession and denied bail. He is the second person to be charged with secession under Article 21 of the security law.
Chung was seen being led away near the US Consulate early on October 27. The 19-year-old activist had intended to claim asylum, according to UK-based group Friends of Hong Kong.
Chung was the former convenor of Studentlocalism, which disbanded on the eve of Beijing’s passing of the security law. The activists had formerly been detained for allegedly “inciting secession” through social media posts.
10. Police launch national security hotline
The force’s national security unit announced plans to launch a hotline for people to report breaches of the security law. The identities of informants will be kept secret.
The hotline will provide a “proper channel” for members of the community to inform on activities that may “jeopardise national security,” a source told the South China Morning Post. The source said it would act as a deterrent against potential violations, adding “there will be ears and eyes everywhere.”