Police in Hong Kong have made further arrests and charges under a national security law imposed on the city by Beijing, of an online radio show host for funding “secession” and of a takeaway delivery driver for shouting pro-independence slogans.
Online radio host Wan Yiu-sing, known by his nickname Giggs, was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of financial support for alleged pro-independence activities, according to a statement on his Facebook page.
Wan was also a former RFA contractor’s guest host for the weekly show “China Forum,” which ended its run on Nov. 18.
“Giggs and his wife were arrested this morning and accused of “money-laundering” and offering financial support for secession,” a post on Wan’s Facebook page said. “[His shows] will be suspended until further notice.”
“Go Hong Kong! Never give up!” the post said.
The accusations relate to Article 21 of the National Security Law, and are believed to be linked to a series of shows he did on an educational aid program run by the democratic island of Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and which has rejected Beijing’s claims on its territory.
According to Hong Kong’s English-language South China Morning Post (SCMP), Wan had called on people to donate via Patreon to fund both his shows and the Taiwan aid program, leading to the accusation that he was “collaborating with a Taiwanese pro-independence group.”
The charges carry a maximum jail term of five years in minor cases and up to 10 years in cases deemed “serious” by a government-appointed judge.
A later post signed “Giggs” said Wan and his family were doing fine, but that “Hong Kong is very sick.”
“Some might say that abiding by the law should come before everything else, but should it be more important than your conscience, more important than justice?” he wrote.
“I am still trying to find a way to obey the law that doesn’t compromise my conscience or violate justice,” he said.
He quoted late Nobel peace laureate and prisoner of conscience Liu Xiaobo, saying “I have no enemies.”
‘Assault on human rights, press freedom’
The U.S. State Department said it was deeply concerned about Wan’s arrest, calling it an “assault on human rights and press freedom.”
Cale Brown, deputy State Department spokesman, said via Twitter that the U.S. was “deeply concerned” about the arrests.
“Another example of the Chinese Communist Party and their Hong Kong proxies’ assault on human rights and press freedom,” Brown wrote.
And in democratic Taiwan, the Mainland Affairs Council called his arrest “another instance of persecution.”
Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kei, who fled to Taiwan at the height of last year’s protest movement, fearing just such a crackdown on dissent, told RFA that Wan’s arrest will have much broader consequences for any group seeking funding for activities disapproved of by Beijing.
He said Hong Kong police have repeatedly targeted crowdfunding activities linked to the city’s democracy movement, which should give pause to anyone thinking of supporting it.
“If you want to donate, you need to know which organization or institution is going to receive the money,” Lam said. “It may not be enough that your donation is confidential. If the organization gets investigated by police, then it could affect the personal safety of donors, because the Hong Kong government may prosecute them.”
“Maybe these organizations need to move overseas to carry out crowdfunding or collect donations.”
Massive crackdown on dissent
Former independence activist Andy Chan said the national security law had brought a massive crackdown on dissent in its wake.
“Their previous targets were the protesters who fought back [against riot police], but now that most of them have been arrested, they will be looking at harmonizing [public opinion],” Chan told RFA.
“They will characterize any fundraising work as money-laundering, so we could now start to see supporters of the protest movement and peaceful protesters losing their jobs or getting arrested,” he said.
So far, 32 people are known to have been arrested under the National Security Law for Hong Kong, which applies anywhere in the world, while only a handful of charges have been brought.
Food delivery driver Ma Chun-man, 30, shouted pro-democracy slogans as he was dragged from West Kowloon Magistrate’s Court after being charged with “inciting secession” for allegedly chanting slogans calling for independence for Hong Kong.
Ma shouted “Spread the word, democracy is cultivated with blood and sweat,” before being bundled into a police van to be remanded in custody, government broadcaster RTHK reported on Tuesday.
He is the third person to have been charged since the law took effect on July 1, after motorbike-riding protester Tong Ying-kit, who waved a pro-independence flag, and independence activist Tony Chung, who faces secession charges linked to comments he posted to social media.
All three have been denied bail, in keeping with recommendations under the law, and are in police detention awaiting trial.
Reported by Gao Feng for RFA’s Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.