This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Hong Kong’s police force on Thursday launched an anonymous tip-off line to encourage people to report each other for alleged violations of a draconian national security law imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1.
“To facilitate the provision of information and reports related to national security, the national security division of the Hong Kong Police Force is officially launching a national security hotline,” the police said in an announcement on their Facebook page.
“The national security tip-off line will accept information, photographs, audio, or video … across multiple platforms,” the post said, adding that no personal information about callers would be retained by the service.
Some supportive comments under the post expressed the intention to report people they knew who deliberately supported “yellow” businesses known to have been supportive of the protest movement.
Negative comments said the police were trying to bring back the political turmoil of China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), during which children were encouraged to inform on teachers and parents, and colleagues, friends, and loved ones on each other.
Police have said they are hoping the hotline will have a “deterrent effect” on anyone considering breaking the law, which bans speech and actions considered to be pro-independence, seditious, terrorist, or “colluding with a foreign power.”
Political commentators say the main aim of the hotline seems to be to sow widespread fear and division among Hong Kong’s seven million residents.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To said the move would lead to a breakdown of trust in the city.
Icarus Wong of the Civil Rights Observer said he worries that reporting hotlines will cause people to spy on each other and create further social division in Hong Kong.
“[This could] create a culture of retaliatory informing, Cultural Revolution style, as well as reinforcing the chilling effect on freedom of speech,” Wong told RFA.
“People fear they could be recorded or filmed discussing current affairs at restaurants or have their social media posts handed over to the police,” he said.
US ‘deeply concerned’ over arrest
The U.S. has called on the CCP to stop its “attempts to crush press freedom” in Hong Kong following the arrest this week of investigative journalist Bao Choy, who made a cutting-edge documentary for government broadcaster RTHK about police inaction in the face of a July 21, 2019 mob attack on train passengers in Yuen Long.
Deputy spokesman of the Department of State Cale Brown said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” about the arrest.
He added: “The Chinese Communist Party and their Hong Kong proxies must cease efforts to crush press freedom.”
Choy was arrested and charged on Tuesday in relation to her use of a license-plate search facility to track the owners of vehicles believed to have taken some of the attackers to Yuen Long ahead of the attack.
RTHK has said it won’t be providing legal assistance to Choy because she is a self-employed producer contracted to provide programming, and not an employee, the Apple Daily newspaper reported.
Choy has been charged with making false statements to obtain data from the government’s license-plate checking system under the Road Traffic Ordinance. She used the data in producing two episodes of the factual show Hong Kong Connection.
The RTHK Programme Staff Union said it would provide legal and financial assistance to Choy, however.
Students warned over exhibition
Meanwhile, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) warned its students that elements of a planned exhibition marking the anniversary of a siege of the CUHK campus by riot police during last year’s protest movement could be in breach of the national security law.
“The University is very concerned about the publicity material for the student union exhibition, which will be held from Nov. 11-18,” it said in a statement on its website.
“The University urges the event organizers to modify or remove the publicity materials immediately and solemnly reminds them not to break the law.”
The university said it had strongly condemned the actions of “vandals” faced with around 1,000 rounds of tear gas fired on campus in a single day, and said the exhibition portrayed the incident in a “biased manner.”
The comments came after the union put up posters containing the now-banned protest slogan “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now!” and calling on people to “show solidarity with arrested protesters.”