Police in Hong Kong have told citizens that mourning the death of a man who stabbed a police officer last week is “no different to supporting terrorism”, as the case was taken over by the national security department.
The comments followed the stabbing of an officer in the back on Thursday night by a 50-year-old man at Causeway Bay. Police said the man then took his own life. The 28-year-old officer sustained a punctured lung in the attack and remains in hospital in a critical condition, according to local media.
Authorities labelled the assailant, named by media as Leung Kin-fai, as a “lone wolf” domestic terrorist who had been politically radicalised, and blamed people who “incite hatred” against China. The incident took place on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule, and thousands of police had been deployed to prevent any protests in the deeply divided city.
It was also the anniversary of the first full day of the national security law, which broadly outlaws the crimes of secession, sedition, foreign collusion and terrorism. The law has been described as draconian and authoritarian, and authorities have been accused of using it to crush opposition following the 2019 mass pro-democracy protests.
On Saturday, some Hongkongers sought to pay tribute to Leung at the site of the attack and online. Police accused of them “trying to glorify, romanticise, make heroic and even rationalise the blatant violence of the attacker”, and suggested such action may breach the national security law.
“Advocating members of the public to mourn for the attacker is no different from supporting terrorism,” police said in a statement. “It will incite further hatred, divide the society and eventually breach social order and endanger public safety, threatening everyone in Hong Kong.”
Chris Tang, the city’s secretary of security and former head of police, said on Friday that a search of Leung’s home discovered materials on his computer showing he had been “radicalised”, but gave no further details.
“It’s not just the assailant who has to be held responsible for this incident, but also the many people who customarily advocate violence, incite hatred against the country, and beautify these attacks – these acts of violence,” Tang said.
The police chief Raymond Siu said on Sunday that the national security department was investigating the attack and whether others were involved, and would not rule out further arrests.
A 20-year-old woman and 26-year-old man were arrested on Sunday for allegedly inciting violence against police online. It was not clear if police considered the cases connected.
Over the weekend the assailant’s employer, Vitasoy, faced a backlash after an internal memo was published online acknowledging Leung was an employee, and included condolences to his family. A public statement from the company gave its support to the police investigation and to stability in Hong Kong and China.
Following threats of boycott in China, and some Chinese celebrities terminating collaborations with the company, Vitasoy issued an apology on Saturday and said the memo had been written by an employee without approval and was “highly inappropriate”.