Hong Kong police have arrested five people for sedition as the city prepares to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Britain’s handover and a possible visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Two men, aged 28 and 30, were arrested and charged on Wednesday with “doing an act or acts with seditious intent”, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
They were suspected of posting messages on social media that “foster feelings of malice and enmity between different classes of people in Hong Kong and incite the use of violence”, police said in a statement. communicated.
Police also announced three new arrests on Wednesday in a previous case involving a martial arts trainer accused of leading an armed separatist movement.
Officers arrested three men aged 39 to 50 for sedition and said they seized “a large number of offensive weapons” including machetes, knives and swords from their homes.
In March, authorities brought charges against two people after they allegedly set up a martial arts training hall to organize a “Hong Kong Independence Armed Force”.
Hong Kong authorities are on high alert as the city prepares for the pivotal date of July 1, when a new government will be sworn in and the former colony celebrates 25 years since its handover.
While China’s former leaders have tended to visit Hong Kong on key anniversaries, a potential visit by Xi next week has been complicated by the country’s zero-tolerance policy for coronavirus infection risks.
Over the past two years the offense of sedition – which was created by Britain’s colonial rulers and has long been criticized as an anti-free speech law – has been used against journalists, trade unionists, activists, a former pop star and people critical of the government’s response to the Covid pandemic.
Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 following massive pro-democracy protests, which were used by officials to suppress dissent. More than 190 people in Hong Kong have been arrested for national security crimes, although authorities dismissed criticism of curtailed civil liberties.
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Post expires at 2:51pm on Monday July 4th, 2022