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Hong Kong University Student Leaders Arrested by National Security Police Over Mourning of Police Attacker

Charles Kwok Wing-ho (middle), president of the University of Hong Kong Student Union. Photo - HKFP
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SELINA CHENG | HONG KONG FREE PRESS

Praising and defending a terrorist act may violate the national security law, police say.

Four University of Hong Kong (HKU) student leaders have been arrested by national security police over allegedly advocating terrorism in a motion they passed that mourned for a man who stabbed a police officer on July 1 and subsequently committed suicide.

Student Union Council Chairperson Kinson Cheung King-sang, council member Anthony Yung and student union former Chairperson Charles Kwok Wing-ho were taken from their residences by police on Wednesday morning, a source with direct knowledge of the arrests told HKFP. A fourth person arrested was a former student residence representative on the Union Council, Chris Todorovski, the HKU Student Union’s news outlet Undergrad reported.

Kwok, Yung and Todorovski will be charged with allegedly advocating terrorism, sources told HKFP. They will appear at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday morning.

Police confirmed they arrested four men between 18 and 20 years old. They were members of HKU’s Student Union executive committee and its Union Council, according to national security police senior superintendent Steve Li. 

Three other students — including the heads of Undergrad and HKU’s CampusTV — were also taken in by police to assist with investigations.

Apology and withdrawal 

The HKU Students’ Union Council passed a motion in early July to “express deep sadness” at the death of Leung Kin-fai, a 50-year-old man who committed suicide after attacking and seriously injuring a police officer on July 1, the 24th anniversary of the city’s handover. The council also praised Leung’s “sacrifice.”

The retraction of the statement, however, did not stop national security police from launching an investigation into the student body and raiding its premises the following week as the city’s leader called for “further action” against the students involved. They were later banned from entering campus, before disciplinary proceedings took place.

Police found CCTV footage, meeting minutes and computers during their raid, Li said. He said that the meeting began with a moment of silence in memory of Leung, and one member suggested praising the act Leung had committed, his “bravery,” and formalising it with a motion in the Student Union’s records.

The motion was voted for by 30 people, with two abstentions and no objections, Li said. The motion was then announced on the Union Council’s social media immediately afterwards.

‘Praising’ terrorism

Police intend to meet with other attendees “to understand their roles” in the meeting, Li said. He also said Leung’s attack is now considered an act of terrorism.

“What constitutes ‘advocating’ [terrorism]? It is quite easy to understand, but to help our law enforcement, we have a more detailed description, which includes either to praise, to defend for or to promote these ideas,” he said. “In the whole debate on this motion, there was a lot of praising, defending and promotion.”

“Discussing this event is not banned, but using the discussion as an occasion to praise these acts are not accepted,” he said. “If you call him a brave man or said he contributed to something in society, there’s a risk of violating article 27 of the national security law.”

“This motion was appalling in that it justified, beautified and glorified terrorism and also indiscriminate attacks, and encouraged suicide. This runs contrary to our usual moral values.”

Mourning terrorist acts would lead to suspicion that one agrees with or glorifies them, he said. Individuals intending to do so “should reconsider.”

In response to reporters’ questions over people who publicly supported the Yuen Long mob attackers and defended their actions, Li said the case was not under his purview and therefore he had no comment about it. 

An HKU spokesperson said in a statement that it would not comment on a case under investigation.

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