Arrests for Online Speech

From June 2014 to August 2016, at least 19 people have been arrested for comments made online. 10 were arrested for remarks on Facebook, and another seven for remarks on HKGolden, a popular local web forum. Most of them were related to the Occupy movement in 2014 or the Mong Kok riot in 2016. All of these arrests were charged under Section 161 of the Crimes Ordinance—“access to computer with criminal or dishonest intent”—and four have been sentenced to either community service or time in a rehabilitation centre.

The Police stated in several official announcements following these arrests that the internet environment was not a lawless world, and the majority of the laws in the real world were also applicable in the cyber world.

Critics, such as Principal Lecturer and Director of Clinical Legal Education at The University of Hong Kong, Eric Cheung, have argued that the authorities were exploiting the ambiguity of “access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent” to repress political activists’ speech on the internet. Section 161 has a lower threshold for prosecution than more substantial offences in Hong Kong such as “illegal gathering”, “criminal intimidation”, or “assaulting police”.

The zeal of the Police to monitor activists’ online speech is perhaps understandable in view of the vital role that social media activism played in 2014’s Occupy Central movement. Protesters used popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate and disseminate real-time information. Joshua Wong, pro-democracy activist and one of the founders of student activism group Scholarism and political party Demosistō, emphasised the importance of social media at an event in 2015: “Without Facebook there would be no Occupy Central, without Facebook there would be no Joshua Wong.”

Open the spreadsheet for details.

Date when arrested Name Age when arrested Affliation Platform Occasion Offence(s) Links
2016.08.06 Cheng
19 Chinese University
中文大學
Facebook LegCo Election 2016
2016年立法會選舉
accessing a computer with criminal or dishonest intent
有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦罪
Mingpao

Oriental

SCMP

2016.08.03 Tsoi
蔡佩強
22 Losers’ rights concern group
關注廢青權益大聯盟
Facebook LegCo Election 2016
2016年立法會選舉
accessing a computer with criminal or dishonest intent
有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦罪
Apple

HKFP

2016.04.06 Alvin Cheng Kam-mun
鄭錦滿
27 Civic Passion
熱血公民
Facebook Hong Kong Library Wars
香港图书馆战争
attempting to steal/accessing a computer with criminal or dishonest intent
企圖盜竊/有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦
Oriental

HKFP

2016.02.17 Lo
21 Hong Kong Design Institute
香港知專設計學院
HKGolden
香港高登
Mong Kok Riot
旺角騷亂
access to computer with dishonest intent
有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦
SCMP

Mingpao

Apple

2016.02.13 Chu Hang Chi 朱 30 Immigration Department
入境處
Facebook Occupy movement
佔領行動
misleading officers by false information/accessing a computer with criminal or dishonest intent
誤導警務人員/有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦
Mingpao

SCMP

Apple

2016.02.12 Ng
吳景倫
(「吳十三」)
38 Autonomy Group
城邦派
unkonwn Mong Kok Riot
旺角騷亂
accessing a computer with criminal or dishonest intent
有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦
Apple

Wenweipo

2015.05.29 Tam Tak-chi
譚得志
43 People Power
人民力量
Facebook funeral of Yeung Kwong
楊光葬禮
access to computer with dishonest intent
不誠實意圖而取用電腦
SCMP

Oriental

2015.05.27 Barry Ma
馬健賢
47 Orchid Gardening
調理農務蘭花系
Facebook columnist Chris Wat’s support for police’s mistaken arrest of an autistic man
作家屈穎妍早前就警誤拘智障男案撰文力撐警方
access to computer with criminal or dishonest intent/assaulting police
有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦/襲警
Apple
2015.03.17 Wan
尹x宗
27 Autonomy Group
城邦派
personal website anti-parallel trade
反水貨客
access to computer with criminal or dishonest intent/possession of explosives
有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦/管有炸藥
Oriental
2015.03.05 Kwok
郭匡文
23 Facebook Occupy movement
佔領行動
two accounts of accessing computer with criminal or dishonest intent
兩項有犯罪意圖而取用電腦罪
Apple

Mingpao

2014.12.06 Jay Ku Ka Ho 顧家豪 31 League of Social Democrats
社會民主連線
Facebook Occupy movement
佔領行動
access to computer with dishonest intent/to incite persons to violence
有犯罪實意圖而取用電腦/煽惑犯涉及非法暴力
Sinpao
2014.11.20 Wong
22 HKGolden
香港高登
Occupy movement
佔領行動
access to computer with criminal or dishonest intent/unlawful assembly
有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦/非法集結
SCMP

RTHK

2014.11.20 Lee
17 HKGolden
香港高登
Occupy movement
佔領行動
access to computer with criminal or dishonest intent/unlawful assembly
有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦/非法集結
RTHK
2014.11.20 Chau
21 HKGolden
香港高登
Occupy movement
佔領行動
access to computer with criminal or dishonest intent/unlawful assembly
有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦/非法集結
RTHK
2014.11.07 Yau
邱文勁
25 Facebook Occupy movement
佔領行動
access to computer with criminal or dishonest intent
有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦
Oriental

Apple

2014.10 Tong Wai-leung 湯偉樑 20 HKGolden
香港高登
Occupy movement
佔領行動
Access to Computer w/criminal intent & criminal intimidation 有犯罪意圖而取用電腦;涉嫌刑事恐嚇 SCMP
2014.10 Tam Hiu-fung
譚曉峰
23 HKGolden
香港高登
Occupy movement
佔領行動
access to computer with criminal intent/unlawful assembly
有犯罪意圖而取用電腦/非法集會
Mingpao
2014.10 Chan Bak Shan
陳白山
22 Facebook Occupy movement
佔領行動
Singpao
2014.06 Wong
15 Civic Passion 熱血公民 HKGolden
香港高登
anti govt’s proposed allocation to develop northeastern New Territories
反新界東北撥款示威
access to computer with criminal or dishonest intent
有犯罪或不誠實意圖而取用電腦
SCMP

Apple