This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Police in Hong Kong have arrested an impersonator of North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un for “possession of a firearm,” sparking concerns that he could have been targeted at the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s behest.
“I was arrested by the HK police at my home on Oct 28th 2020,” Howard X, who is well-known in Hong Kong for dressing up as the North Korean leader, wrote on his Facebook page on Jan. 19.
“They had a warrant to search my home because according to them, a BB gun had been posted to my address in April 2020 to which I never actually received,” he said. “Around 10 policemen came to raid the apartment.”
BB guns are legal in Hong Kong, but police had said this gun had a higher-than-normal energy output making it count as a firearm, wrote the impersonator, whose birth name is Lee Ho-hung.
“When I challenged them on the arrest on such ridiculous grounds, they had indicated that the order came from another department higher up and stated they were just doing their jobs,” he said, adding that some of the officers arresting him were fans of his act.
He said the officers had also mentioned his appearance in costume at public demonstrations in 2020 in support of the pro-democracy movement.
“[This] points to my suspicions that this arrest was not really about the BB gun,” Lee wrote, adding that he often uses replica firearms, bombs, and nuclear missiles as part of his act.
“In my opinion this was an arbitrary arrest for my satirical critique of the CCP government in the years past and this arrest is being used as a tool not only to harass but to also take my finger prints,” he said, adding that his cell phone had been confiscated and his home searched.
Lee is currently out on bail, and has to report to the police every six weeks, meaning that he could still face criminal charges.
He made his most recent trip to the police station in full costume, toting a fake missile, on Jan. 20, in a bid to ridicule the whole process.
“I am here to make my report to the police,” Lee told RFA.
“Let’s see what they say. I brought my rocket launcher toy along specially to see if they would charge me for [possession of a firearm],” he quipped.
He said he had initially believed his arrest to be a “misunderstanding.”
“I just thought it was ridiculous,” he said. “Why send 10 people to arrest me over a toy gun? It was a waste of police time and of my time.”
Lee said that even if he had ordered a gun, it would have only been toy.
“I think maybe they arrested me because some people were dissatisfied with me having repeatedly satirized and criticized the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and [its leader] Xi Jinping,” he told RFA.
“I have turned up at demonstrations many times to mock people from all over the world, including Trump, Xi Jinping, and [Hong Kong chief executive] Carrie Lam.”
“Now they are settling accounts,” said Lee, who has previously gotten into trouble in authoritarian regimes like Singapore and Vietnam because of his costume.
“I was arrested in Singapore and deported from Vietnam, but I have never been persecuted like this in Hong Kong before,” he said. “This used to be a free city, but it’s gradually getting a lot more like Pyongyang.”
Lee, who holds an Australian passport, said he has yet to receive any consular assistance from that country, and doesn’t expect a fair trial in Hong Kong if charged.