Hong Kong’s government has deployed an elite police unit for political monitoring and surveillance as it tightens the political screws and moves closer to mainland China.
Serving and retired police officers, lawyers and legislators told Reuters news agency of intensifying political operations by the police force’s Security Wing, an elite unit that is supposed to handle sensitive tasks – including VIP protection and counterterrorism investigations.
Sources familiar with the Wing’s work say it led surveillance and monitoring operations against the National Party and more than a dozen other groups.
“We can see them [the government] being much more assertive in using these powers and in shaping their policy decisions to reflect the national interests,” said Professor Simon Young of the University of Hong Kong’s law school, adding that the courts may be a last line of defence against government overreach.
In the past few months, the territory has banned the Hong Kong National Party, which wants separation from China, and barred some activists from standing in local elections. Earlier this month, it refused to renew the work visa of Victor Mallet, a journalist with the Financial Times, after he hosted a speech by an independence activist.
The National Party was banned last month as an “imminent threat to national security” as the government invoked little-known clauses of a law regulating private groups and societies.
Authorities have so far refused to explain their decision on Mallet, except to say no independence advocacy will be tolerated. The Financial Times has said it will appeal the decision.
Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law, stresses freedoms of speech and assembly.
Some of the young people who led 2014’s pro-democracy Umbrella Revolution street protests say there is a growing sense of despair at the pressure on civil society and individual rights.[Source: REUTERS NEWS AGENCY]