By the end of August, As the government continued to block the protesters’ growing demands, many young people became more desperate. They often rely on Molotovs, bonfires, bricks, lighter liquids, and anything metal to break windows. After an officer shot and injured a young protester, another protester elsewhere set a man on fire. The tension is growing.
In the neon-lit shopping district of Causeway Bay, Chan Chun-kit, a 33-year-old property manager, stepped into the crowd gathered near Victoria Park to express interest in an upcoming election. The officers ordered the group to move along. “Haak ging! ” someone shouted, according to court documents. Black police. It is a frequent mockery, rooted in many Hong Kongers’ belief that the police have ties to organized crime.
Chan wears black clothes and a black mask. Four weeks earlier, Carrie Lam had signed an executive order banning face coverings when gathering illegally. “Take off the mask!” a commanding officer. Chan walked but didn’t get far. Inside Chan’s bag, police found a helmet and gloves, a respirator, and 48 6-inch-long plastic lanyards.
Plastic ties are legal to make, then and now. But they have come up with new uses in protests: hanging banners, creating barricades, and in some notable cases to restrain people. In this context, the police presented plastic ropes as proof of the crime. Prosecutors charged Chan with possession of suitable tools for an unlawful purpose, a petty offense created during British rule to stop thefts before they happened.
At the trial, Chan’s friend testified that the two planned to move furniture from the office and use lanyards to secure everything in transit. The judge dismissed the story. In the ruling, he deduced that the defendant intended to use the relationships to create barriers and that “the illegal purpose of using them in armed confrontations, fights, [and] injure. The court found Chan guilty in August 2020 and sentenced him to 5 and a half months in prison.
Chan appealed. Before the bench, his attorney, Steven Kwan, argued that a plastic lanyard did not fit the definition of a tool fit for an illegal purpose. Hong Kong law prohibits specific restrictive measures, such as handcuffs or fingercuffs that can subdue someone, along with devices like bone keys that can open a locked room. The appellate judges rejected the appeal but found there was an important legal question about the law and let Chan appeal to the city’s highest court. His petition is scheduled for June.
In prison, Chan meets people who are serving similar sentences for carrying knives. Inmates, Kwan said, found the idea of plastic tethers as weapons hilarious.
In June 2020, China’s legislature passed a national security law and included it in the Hong Kong constitution. It lists four new charges – secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces – and gives police seemingly unchecked powers to investigate, search, arrest and detention. It didn’t take long for people to see the true intent of the law. After the police arrested Jimmy Lai, a newspaper publisher that advocated foreign sanctions, the government targeted politicians who held their own primaries to gain a majority in the legislature and activists held an annual vigil to honor those shot down by Chinese soldiers in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Not long before that, civil society organizations and labor unions closed down. for fear of being arrested.
Shortly after dawn on December 2, 2020, nearly two dozen officers banged on the door of Keith Fong’s family apartment. Under a search warrant, police later charged the student leader with carrying an assault weapon in a public place, as well as two new charges: obstruction of justice and resistance to police work. 16 months after being arrested on Apliu Street, Fong, then 22 years old, faced years in prison.