HONG KONG: Four people in Hong Kong were indicted on Wednesday (November 9th) for reposting social media content by pro-democracy activists calling for a boycott of the city’s “patriots only” elections last December.
Last year, authorities made it illegal to encourage anyone to boycott elections or spoil their ballots, with violators facing up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of HK$200,000 ( $25,000).
After Hong Kong saw huge and at times violent democracy protests in 2019, authorities cracked down on dissent and arrested dissenters while Beijing imposed new rules ensuring only “staunch patriots” could run for office.
Some overseas Hong Kong activists – including former pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui – have denounced the new rules and urged the public to dismiss the latest election as a sham.
The four people charged on Wednesday, aged 29 to 58, allegedly reposted or posted material “urging others to vote blank or not to vote”, according to Hong Kong’s anti-corruption agency.
Two of them – physiotherapist Wong Chi-yan, 42, and Mabel Yick, 58 – have been accused of sharing content written by former lawmaker Hui.
The other illegal content is said to come from democracy activist Sunny Cheung and former district councilor Yau Man-chun, both of whom are also overseas.
Arrest warrants have been issued for the three original perpetrators since late last year, the Independent Commission Against Corruption said in a statement.
At least six democracy activists in exile are wanted by the ICAC for inciting others not to vote.
This law does not prohibit individuals from spoiling ballots or refusing to vote.
Hong Kong is not a democracy – the source of years of protests that were eventually crushed by lawsuits and a national security law that criminalized much dissent.
Just under a quarter of the seats in the city’s legislature are directly elected under a new “patriots-only” system introduced by Beijing last year.
All candidates had to be selected for their political loyalties, meaning the city’s traditional pro-democracy opposition was frozen.
The poll drew record turnout and rendered a 90-seat legislature packed with government loyalists and devoid of any opposition.
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