Pro-democracy activists are concerned about police infiltration after a protest organiser received an unexpected call from the force over an unpublicised event.
On Thursday, the Civil Human Rights Front was planning a protest outside the Police Headquarters in Wan Chai the following day. It planned to submit a letter requesting a meeting with police chief Stephen Lo Wai-chung to discuss remarks made by police union leaders over the recent convictions of seven officers for assault against pro-democracy activist Ken Tsang.
A spokesperson for the group and District Councilor Au Nok-hin told HKFP that he received a phone call from a police community relations officer enquiring about the plan, just 20 minutes after his team informed members in five private group chats.
He suspected police had access to the internal messages either by covert surveillance or infiltration.
“This is the first time police called me about a proposed event before we even contacted them. We usually reach out to them about our plans to hold public demonstrations,” Au said.
“I don’t rule out the possibility that there are police infiltrators in our private groups. In fact, I think it is very likely.”
Au added that there are around 100 members in each of two larger message groups.
“All I can say is that I am very impressed by the efficiency of the police for responding to our plan within 20 minutes,” Au said. He described the incident as “frightening” on social media on Thursday.
Another member of the group, Cheng Sze-lut, said the incident was “very bizarre,” as police contacted them before they even finalised the event details.
“We only messaged members of the Civil Human Rights Front, other pro-democracy groups and pan-democratic lawmakers, how did the police find out about our plan in such a short period of time?” Cheng said.
But some online commenters pointed out that it might be because someone publicised the plan on a public Telegram channel.
A police spokesperson did not answer HKFP’s enquiries directly on how they learned about the plan.
It said: “The force found out that a group was planning a public event outside the Police Headquarters on Friday. Therefore, we reached out to them for details in order to ensure that the event will be held in an orderly manner.”
Au’s group went ahead with the protest on Friday. They wanted to express to the police chief their discontent with the “inappropriate” remarks made by police union leaders over the high-profile Occupy assault case.
Pro-democracy lawmakers “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law, Lau Siu-lai, and Ray Chan Chi-chuen also attended the protest.
Junior Police Officers’ Association Chairman Joe Chan Cho-kwong described the two years’ jail term of the seven officers as “unacceptable.” He said “everything has a cause” and the reason for the officers to assault Ken Tsang was because they were provoked by protesters.
On Wednesday, four major police unions held a rare rally in solidarity with the convicted officers. More than 38,000 members and their relatives attended the event, according to the organisers.
During the rally, the crowd chanted “Fight for justice and restore the rule of law.” They criticised the “harsh sentences” and vowed to help the convicted officers clear their convictions.
Au told Stand News that the rally could easily be perceived by the public as sending the message that police see no problem in officers abusing their public powers to punish people illegally.
Updated with the police’s response.