Fife Street (by lsc04d11 CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, modified)

On June 21, Hong Kong police arrested a man for hanging a pro-democracy banner on the laundry rack outside his apartment window.

The 40-year-old man had hung a banner with the slogan “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now” (光復香港 時代革命) on the laundry rack outside the window of his apartment on Fife Street (快富街), in Mongkok district.

According to local media, a passer-by submitted a report to the police. At around 5 p.m., over 20 police officers showed up on Fife Street. They entered the building, arrested the suspect on charges of “uttering seditious words” (發表煽動文字), and removed the banner.

Residents of the building were not allowed to go upstairs unless accompanied by officers. Plainclothes police were seen taking pictures of the surrounding area, while other officers patrolled the street.

The slogan on the banner was popular during the 2019 protests against the increasing encroachment on Hong Kong’s freedoms and civil liberties by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime. Beijing ultimately cracked down on the pro-democracy movement by passing the National Security Law (NSL) in June 2020.

In July of last year the Hong Kong government declared that a number of protest slogans, including “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times”, and various iterations of it, are illegal under the NSL and are to be considered seditious speech.

In October 2020 the Hong Kong police set up a hotline that allows citizens to report violations of the NSL, thus turning the whole population into potential spies and adding an element of self-policing to enhance law-enforcers’ capabilities to punish dissent.

The incident exemplifies Hong Kong’s trend towards authoritarianism. Hundreds of pro-democracy activists have been arrested since the NSL was passed, the September elections have been postponed, and freedom of speech has been restricted.

On June 17 the police raided the offices of Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy media outlet Apple Daily and arrested five of its executives.

The owner of Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai, is currently in prison for his participation in the pro-democracy movement. His company’s assets were frozen by the government in May, and the paper is rumoured to shut down on Saturday if the judiciary rejects its request to regain access to its bank accounts.



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