Who are the police in Hong Kong

Hong KongPolice conduct digital research after mass arrests of democracy activists

As part of the mass arrests of activists in Hong Kong on January 6, police confiscated more than 200 devices such as telephones and laptops. The Washington Post reported that police officers appeared with lists of telephone numbers that were registered for individual victims.

According to the newspaper, the Hong Kong police have started sending devices to mainland China to evaluate them.

Those arrested last Wednesday are people from the pro-democracy spectrum, including trade unionists, activists for minority rights and former MPs. They were all involved in the general election primaries, in which the democratic spectrum would have had a good chance. The election, which should have taken place in September 2020, was postponed by the Hong Kong government with reference to the corona pandemic. It is also considered to change the electoral system to the detriment of the democracy movement.

Strange activity

All but two of the 52 arrested were released on bail. Nobody has been charged under the draconian new security law. Shortly after the arrests and seizures, colleagues and acquaintances of those arrested reported strange activity on their social media and communications accounts, reports the Washington Post. For example, messages were sent via the Telegram account of an arrested radio presenter. In the case of others, Telegram sent confirmation codes to check the authenticity of the account. Telegram had played an important role in mobilizing the protests.

Research into democratic networks

Two former MPs also received a tip from Google that state sponsored hackers were trying to break into their Gmail accounts. The background to the research could be that the police want to get a more precise picture of the democratic networks and the protests. This is the fear of Glacier Kwong, a digital rights activist who now lives in exile in Germany. She told the Washington Post: "The government wants to use the confiscated devices to map the opposition network, who is in contact with whom, in order to completely knock us down."

After the raids, the HKChronicles website in Hong Kong was only accessible indirectly via a virtual private network. Kwong sees a precedent in this censorship and is certain that further restrictions will follow.

Would you like more critical reporting?

Our work at netzpolitik.org is financed almost exclusively by voluntary donations from our readers. With an editorial staff of currently 15 people, this enables us to journalistically work on many important topics and debates in a digital society. With your support, we can clarify even more, conduct investigative research much more often, provide more background information - and defend even more fundamental digital rights!

You too can support our work now with yours Donation.

About the author

Markus Reuter

Markus Reuter deals with the topics of digital rights, hate speech & censorship, fake news & social bots, right-wing extremists online, video surveillance, basic and civil rights and social movements. At netzpolitik.org since March 2016 as an editor. He can be reached at markus.reuter | ett | netzpolitik.org and on Twitter at @markusreuter_
Published 01/13/2021 at 10:55 am