Hong Kong police on Thursday have launched an anonymous tip-off line where residents can report breaches of the draconian national security law imposed by Beijing earlier this year.
The law, enacted by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) criminalises secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces. It has silenced many protesters since it came into force.
“To facilitate the provision of information and reports related to national security, the national security division of the Hong Kong Police Force is officially launching a national security hotline,” the police said in an announcement on their Facebook page.
“The national security tip-off line will accept information, photographs, audio, or video … across multiple platforms,” the post said, adding that no personal information about callers would be retained by the service.
Residents can submit the information via the messaging app WeChat, email or text.
Some Hongkongers supportive of the move expressed their intention to report people they knew who deliberately supported “yellow” businesses known to have been sympathetic of the protest movement.
But some residents expressed negative comments and said the police were trying to bring back the political turmoil of China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), during which children were encouraged to inform on teachers and parents, and colleagues, friends, and loved ones on each other.
Police have said they are hoping the hotline will have a “deterrent effect” on anyone considering breaking the national security law.
Political commentators say the main aim of the hotline seems to be to sow widespread fear and division among Hong Kong’s seven million residents.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To said the move would lead to a breakdown of trust in the city.
Icarus Wong of the Civil Rights Observer said he worries that reporting hotlines will cause people to spy on each other and create further social division in Hong Kong.
“[This could] create a culture of retaliatory informing, Cultural Revolution style, as well as reinforcing the chilling effect on freedom of speech,” Wong told RFA.
“People fear they could be recorded or filmed discussing current affairs at restaurants or have their social media posts handed over to the police,” he said.
Beijing has continued to tighten control of the city under the national security bill. Beijing argues the legislation is needed to tackle unrest and instability following months of protests.
But the law has been widely condemned by western governments and human rights groups, with critics saying it ends freedoms guaranteed for 50 years after British rule ended in Hong Kong in 1997.
After it was introduced in June, a number of pro-democracy groups disbanded out of fears for their safety.
Meanwhile, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) warned its students that elements of a planned exhibition marking the anniversary of a siege of the CUHK campus by riot police during last year’s protest movement could be in breach of the national security law.
“The University is very concerned about the publicity material for the student union exhibition, which will be held from Nov. 11-18,” it said in a statement on its website.
“The University urges the event organizers to modify or remove the publicity materials immediately and solemnly reminds them not to break the law.”
The comments came after the union put up posters containing the now-banned protest slogan “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now!” and calling on people to “show solidarity with arrested protesters.” (Source: RFA)