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Hong Kong's pro-democracy activist jailed for ‘doxing’

Joshua Wong also faces a series of cases for his support for democracy and freedom
Hong Kong's pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong faces a series of charges for supporting the movement for democracy and freedom in the former British colony

Hong Kong's pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong faces a series of charges for supporting the movement for democracy and freedom in the former British colony. (Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP)

Published: April 17, 2023 10:29 AM GMT
Updated: April 17, 2023 12:46 PM GMT

A court in Hong Kong has jailed activist Joshua Wong for three months for sharing public details of a police officer who was involved in a live-round shooting during the 2019 pro-democracy movement.

Judge Russell Coleman found Wong, 26, guilty of violating a court order that makes sharing police officers’ public information a punishable offense, the Hong Kong Free Press reported on April 17.

Wong was accused of sharing a post on Aug. 14, 2020, that contained a link to a popular, multi-category forum website, LIHKG, which had the photographs of the police officer, his wife, and his two daughters.

Launched in 2016, LIHKG became a widely used side by pro-democracy protesters during the 2019 unrest.

The prosecution argued that some of the comments under the photos in the LIHKG forum were “distasteful and repulsive,” and Wong had “abused the social influence” that he had while calling on the court for exemplary punishment.

“The court should send a clear message to the public that such actions were not to be tolerated,” the prosecution counsel said.

Reportedly, one of the photos was edited and the officers’ daughters were depicted as holding knives with the words, “Our father is a murderer” written on them.

Barrister Albert Wong, representing Joshua Wong, said that the activist condemned the derogatory comments.

Wong accepted that some of the comments had an “undertone of racism” and added that he “offers [an] unreserved apology” to the officer and his family.

The prosecution also pointed out that the now-removed public post addressed to another activist Nathan Law had attracted over 4,900 reactions.

Even though the post was removed two days after its publishing, the damage was done and it was impossible to “put the genie back into the bottle,” the prosecution counsel said during the final hearing of the case registered in 2022.

In November 2019, a police officer shot protester Chow Pak-kwan during a rally at Sai Wan Ho that turned violent. Allegedly, Chow had tried to grab the officer’s gun and was later imposed with a six-year jail sentence after he was found guilty.

In June 2020, the court imposed an anonymity order banning the disclosure of the personal information of the police officer who fired the live round while hearing the case of those arrested over the Sai Wan Ho protest.

Earlier in 2019, the high court had issued an interim injunction order which banned the disclosure of the personal information of police officers involved in the 2019 extradition bill protests, and the details of their extended family members.

Wong was previously imprisoned for other protest-related cases and is now in remand over a national security case in which he and 46 other democracy supporters were accused of conspiring to commit subversion.

In another hearing related to the breach of privacy of the same officer, activist Tsang Chi-sing was sentenced to 21 days in prison. Tsang’s sentence was suspended for 12 months.

Tsang had submitted a mitigation letter to the court admitting that he deeply regretted the “silly matter” that he had done.

He was ordered to pay HK$8,000 (US$1019.13) in legal costs to the Department of Justice.

In 2021, Hong Kong amended the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance giving sweeping powers to the city’s privacy commissioner to request local and overseas internet service providers to remove “doxing” content.

Doxing involves publicizing the personal details of an individual without consent.

At present, disclosing personal data without consent with the intent to cause psychological harm is a criminal offense in Hong Kong. Those convicted face a fine of up to HK$1 million (US$127,391) and up to five years imprisonment.

According to the provisions of the ordinance, the privacy commissioner has the authority to access an electronic device without a warrant under “urgent circumstances.”

Over 5,700 complaints related to doxing were recorded between June 2019 and April 2021, involving police officers and their family members, as well as supporters of the government, media reports say.

Journalists from the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper of Catholic media mogul Jimmy Lai and employees of the state-run public broadcaster RTHK were also targets of doxing.

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