Hong Kong not becoming police state, says city's top cop

Police use cordon tape to control crowds in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on June 4, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong is not becoming a "police state", the city's top law enforcement officer said on Tuesday (June 7), days after his officers stamped out the city's once-permitted commemorations marking Beijing's Tiananmen crackdown.

The business hub is preparing for an upcoming leadership change as well as the 25th anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China, during which President Xi Jinping is widely expected to visit.

Speaking to local outlet HK01 about beefed-up security activity around the event to mark the anniversary of the June 4, 1989, crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen, commissioner Raymond Siu Chak Yee rejected criticism that the police were becoming too powerful.

"A police state is where the government forcibly controls various aspects of people's life with administrative measures and without going through legal procedures. Do people think Hong Kong is like that?" he said.

"Hong Kong is a society of rule of law, not a police state."

His comments come after police arrested six people last  Saturday as the authorities pounced on any attempt to publicly remember the Tiananmen crackdown.

Amnesty International has accused the authorities of "harassment and indiscriminate targeting" for the arrests.

Police closed Victoria Park - the site of a once-annual Tiananmen vigil - and jam packed the surrounding area, one of the busiest shopping districts in Hong Kong, with officers.

People were stopped and searched for carrying flowers, wearing black and, in one case, carrying a toy tank box.

On Tuesday, the authorities rolled out a "counter-terrorism reporting hotline" for residents to report "violent acts, suspected terrorism-related activities, in particular extremist plots".

People would be paid for "reliable" information, they said.

Protest documentary

Since Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 after large and often violent pro-democracy demonstrations, the authorities have clamped down on dissent.

In another interview with the South China Morning Post, Mr Siu "advised" residents to not watch or download an award-winning documentary about the 2019 protests if they are uncertain about the legal risk.

The film, Revolution Of Our Times, has recently become widely available on United States streaming platform Vimeo.

Remote video URL

Mr Siu did not, however, specify whether the movie or the production team had violated any law or had been investigated by the force's national security unit.

"If they're not sure whether this would commit (offences under) the national security law, then I would advise them to try to distance themselves from doing such acts," he told the Post.

Produced by Hong Kong director Kiwi Chow, the movie takes its name from a then popular - but now outlawed - protest slogan.

It debuted at the Cannes film festival last July, and in November won best documentary award at Taiwan's Golden Horse Award, an event dubbed the Chinese-language Oscars.

It has never been shown commercially in Hong Kong, as the city toughened film censorship after the passage of the security law, and Chow sold the rights to his work overseas to avoid scrutiny.

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