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Threats of internet cleanup to block mourning the man stabbed himself and officer


This is translated from CitizenNews' weekly digest tracking Hong Kong's political news over the past week. (一周政情:襲警案引發網絡大清算

The attack by a man knifed a policeman before stabbing himself in the chest on July 1 night has sent shockwaves across the city.

As of Monday, the officer has turned from critical to stable, while the assailant died soon after he was sent to hospital. Although newly appointed secretary for security Chris Tang characterised the incident as a “homegrown lone-wolf terrorist attack”, people have flocked to Causeway Bay and laid flowers at the scene to pay tribute to the dead man. Officers not only blocked and fined those trying to mourn the death of the man, but also took aim at what it called seditious words online. Two were arrested for allegedly threatening to kill the police or arson at police premises on social media.

But the attack was no ordinary, spur-of-the-moment killing. It was a political incident of paramount importance.

Evidence pointed to the fact that the suspect stabbed the officer out of political motivative, reportedly to vent his strong dissatisfaction against the law enforcements, especially the series of detentions following the enactment of the National Security Law (NSL). This motive was revealed in part of his suicide note, as well as information posted online by his friend. Many who joined the anti-extradition movement have, as a result, coined the dead man as a “martyr”, despite the government characterised the case as a murder and a terrorist activity under the NSL.

The incident also took place on the 24th anniversary of Hong Kong’s hand-over, the first anniversary as the NSL came into effect, plus the grand celebration of Chinese Communist Party’s centenary in Beijing. The chief executive was joined by a number of political and business leaders in Beijing to attend the celebrations. But all these were overshadowed by the attack which happened on the very same day. Beijing would likely be furious to instruct the SAR Government to respond with a heavy hand.

The SAR government has used the NSL to arrest groups of pan-democrats and force Apple Daily to shut down. The internet was likely the next target. The online hate speech against police has given the authority an excuse to crackdown on these speeches by the offence of incitement. Government has also floated that an anti-fake news law to clamp down on online speeches. Both measures could have profound and far-reaching political ramification.

People hold flowers to mourn the death of an assailant who stabbed a police officer in Hong Kong, July 2, 2021. AP Photo

It would have been natural and totally make sense for senior officers or government officials to come forward to condemn the perpetrator, only if we are talking about a normal city. The public will usually feel for the injured officer even if the attacker kills himself, refraining from mocking the officer or even mourning the killer. But that has become the reality now, and the sympathy is still growing. Could all these citizens possibly be cold-blooded terrorists? Would a sensible and civilised government not study why did the public react so abnormally? Has it been the public distrust accumulated over time because police’s enforcement?

The Hong Kong SAR government however only offered a single response with even stronger crackdown and threats. Police has cordoned the vicinity of Causeway Bay, stopping anyone from approaching the scene of the attack. Those did came close were searched or fined for littering because of placing flowers as final tribute. Journalists conducting proper newsgathering were fined for violating social distancing rules. The police force and senior officials strongly condemned these mourning of glorying the assailant and inciting hatred against the police which is absolutely intolerable to the authority. “Those who promote, praise, glorify and call for respecting terrorists activity could be viewed as promoting, inciting, or advocating terrorist activists, and may have violated the law,” said Executive Council member Ronny Tong. Police power and force were used to prevent people from airing their grievances. Is this not precisely what a police government would do?


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