Skip to content

Illustration by Security Management

Students Arrested in Hong Kong for ‘Advocating Terrorism’

Four student union leaders—ages 18 to 20—at the University of Hong Kong were arrested Wednesday on charges under the new National Security Law (NSL). Officials said the students were suspected of “advocating terrorism,” after they held a moment of silence for a 50-year-old man who stabbed a Hong Kong police officer before killing himself, The New York Times reported.

The man stabbed the police officer, 28, from behind on 1 July. The officer was on duty to prevent protest gatherings on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, according to Al Jazeera.

Police had previously cautioned people against mourning the attacker, who was labeled a lone wolf. Officials said mourning him was “no different from supporting terrorism,” ABC News reported.

The moment of silence was part of a livestreamed meeting on 7 July, when the student union passed a motion expressing “deep sadness” for the man’s death and appreciation for his “sacrifice,” according to the Times. Days later, the student union leaders apologized, retracted the motion, and resigned after city officials called for them to be tried in court or expelled from the university.

Chris Tang, Hong Kong’s secretary for security, said at a news briefing Wednesday that the students would be charged with “inciting” a terrorist attack. Under the NSL, people convicted of terrorism charges face a minimum of five years in prison.

At a different news briefing, Li Kwai-Wah, a senior superintendent in the National Security Department, said that the students’ language rationalizes and beautifies terrorism, and that there was a close relationship between terrorism and hatred of the government and police force.

Police will interview all 30 attendees of the 7 July meeting who voted in favor of the motion. The national security police raided the union’s campus office, the university severed ties with the union, and the 30 students were banned from entering university premises.

Universities and colleges have been targeted by proponents of the NSL. In the face of strong criticism and repeated accusations, the Professional Teachers’ Union—which had more than 90,000 members—has disbanded, and the mass protest march organizer Civil Human Rights Front dissolved this week. The 612 Humanities Fund—which subsidized the legal costs of arrested pro-democracy protesters—announced today that it would cease operations.

So far, more than 100 pro-democracy activists have been arrested under the NSL, which outlaws subversion, secession, terrorism, and foreign collusion to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs, according to ABC.