HONG KONG - The police have laid charges on four student leaders of the University of Hong Kong on Thursday (Aug 19) for advocating terrorism - the first time this specific offence is applied under the security law imposed in June last year.
The four, aged 18 to 20, each faces one count of breaching Article 27 of the national security law.
They are former student representative Anthony Yung, council chairman Kinson Cheung, former student union president Charles Kwok and former student representative Chris Todorovski.
All four are in remand and they each face an alternative charge of incitement to wound with intent.
Prosecutors argued that they had incited others to unlawfully and maliciously wound police officers to cause grievous bodily harm.
The case will be mentioned again on Sept 14.
On Wednesday, senior superintendent Steve Li, of Hong Kong Police Force's National Security Department, told the media the students were detained under the national security law for advocating terrorism, over a motion to pay tribute to a man who stabbed a police officer last month.
The university's student paper Undergrad on Wednesday reported that three other students have been taken to the police station to help with the investigation.
Supt Li described the motion as "shocking", adding that the students had mourned the attacker before moving the motion to commend the deceased's acts as bravery.
The motion passed with 30 "yes" votes, with two abstaining.
The arrested students are among more than 30 who took part in a July 7 tribute to "express deep sadness" at the death of 50-year-old Leung Kin Fai, who stabbed a police officer from behind before stabbing himself, and to "appreciate his sacrifice to Hong Kong".
The incident occurred near Sogo mall in Causeway Bay on July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from British rule to China.
Hours after the arrests, the city's No. 2 official John Lee told the media that people in Hong Kong have to continue to develop a law-abiding culture, one that was "destroyed by the violence since 2019".
The chief secretary for administration said: "At this time, when we have to rectify this incorrectness, we must ensure that this principle of being a law-abiding citizen is a fundamental cornerstone for a city to be stable and prosper.
"If we comply with the law then everybody can go about their duty as freely and as comfortably as they may wish."
The student union resolution to pay tribute to Leung drew condemnation shortly after from the city's officials, the university and also from Chinese state media China Daily, prompting the union to retract the motion.
The university said it "strongly" condemned the act of students using the name of the council to "whitewash violence and violent attacks", while the security bureau said glorifying the attack and advocating for people to mourn the attacker is no different from supporting and encouraging terrorism.
On July 9, the student union leadership stepped down, apologised and withdrew the "seriously inappropriate" motion.
More than a dozen executives and 11 councillors resigned in the aftermath but Chief Executive Carrie Lam called for an investigation into the student body over its retracted statement.
Subsequently, the university cut ties with the student body.
On July 17, the police raided the students' union office on suspicion of breaching the security law.
Soon after, the university evicted the union and banned from its campus the students who passed the motion.