Hong Kong police arrested four people for “seditious” social media posts in connection with a Facebook page titled “Civil servant secrets,” after the page was denounced by a newspaper backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for “inciting civil servants” and “smearing government policies and operations.”
Two were accused of being the administrators of the group, which stopped posting on the day of the arrests, but later started up at a different address calling itself “Civil servant secrets 2.0.”
The last visible post on the original page showed a police officer leaving his firearm unattended as he took a nap on some chairs.
Another two were members of the Fire Services Department, and were suspected of having posted to the group, the CCP-backed Wen Wei Po newspaper reported.
All four were released on bail on Wednesday, the Hong Kong Free Press cited police as saying.
Political denunciations in CCP-backed media are increasingly being used to target civil society groups, journalists and NGOs in Hong Kong.
The denunciations usually focus on accusations that a given organization has done something that could be in breach of a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the CCP from July 1, 2020.
The merged Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao website also denounced outspoken political commentator and talk-show host Poon Siu-to, political scientist Simon Shen, veteran journalist Chip Tsao and four colleagues at Commercial Radio for
In an Aug. 8 report on a complaint lodged by a pro-CCP group with the city’s Communications Authority about Commercial Radio, the paper reported that the group had complained that the station is “spreading poison” and “betraying Hong Kong.”
“Some show hosts have used the platform to publish anti-China speeches betraying Hong Kong and misleading its people,” the report cited the complaint as saying.
“They include Poon Siu-to, Simon Shen, Chip Tsao, Jacky Fung, Jan Lamb, Michelle Lo, Ken Yuen and others from Commercial Radio,” the report said.
“The group strongly urged the Communications Authority to strictly supervize the media and not allow the station to arbitrarily invite guests who spread anti-government messages and hate speech against the Hong Kong and Chinese governments,” it said.
“These hosts have often made false remarks in the program, which they infiltrated with their extreme political stance and distorted values, turning it into a platform for their personal political propaganda … only making negative comments or overly politicized comments and distorted logic … when it comes to governance or China-related topics,” it quoted the complaint as saying.
The group called on the authority to take action to silence their “hostile words and deeds,” and prevent them from using the station to spread “poison,” the report said.
Tsang Chi-ho, who once hosted the banned satirical news show Headliner for government broadcaster RTHK, said the pro-Beijing press is now casting its net wider than ever.
“This encompasses a very broad spectrum,” Tsang told RFA. “Leaving aside the political commentators, Poon Siu-to, Chip Tsao and others, they have even included Jan Lamb who is known as a comedian.”
“Nobody thought they would be put in the same category, but now it seems they are,” he said.
“It sends the message that anyone who talks about serious political issues will be targeted, even if you just make light-hearted, satirical comments,” Tsang said.
Tsang, who was himself denounced many times by the pro-CCP media in Hong Kong before his show was shelved in 2020 for “insulting the police,” said political satire, once a ubiquitous part of Hong Kong’s media offering, appears now to be a thing of the past.
He said anyone with a public platform is now vulnerable to similar denunciations, with scant support from a fast-disappearing civil society, an increasingly muzzled media, and a Legislative Council that has been purged of any political opposition.
He said the denunciations appear timed to coincide with the forthcoming mid-term review of Commercial Radio’s broadcasting license.
“They only approved the renewal of the license for 12 years … with a mid-term review in 2022, so perhaps they are … putting pressure on Commercial Radio to make adjustments to the style and attitude of their programming,” Tsang said.
Hong Kong Journalists’ Association (HKJA) chairman Ronson Chan also expressed surprise at the list of names in the article.
“If they’re even going to rectify Jacky Lam, then we have a huge problem,” Chan told RFA. “If Jacky Lam, an iconic personality on Commercial Radio, gets rectified, or silenced, or changes his approach in any way, this will naturally mean people lose confidence in the station.”
He said people denounced by pro-CCP media are likely to face investigation by police under the national security law imposed on the city by Beijing from July 1, 2020.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.