Hong Kong (AFP), March 22 – A Hong Kong martial arts trainer accused of leading an armed separatist movement with his assistant has been charged with sedition, police said on Tuesday, after a raid seized weapons including crossbows and machetes .
Police allege the 59-year-old trainer and a 62-year-old assistant – who both face weapons charges – set up a martial arts training room to ‘incite hatred’ against the government and organize “an armed force for the independence of Hong Kong”. .
“Those arrested were deeply affected by the misinformation and have become self-radicalized…Now they are spreading the misinformation to others,” Chief Superintendent Steve Li said at a press conference.
Hong Kong’s colonial-era Sedition Act, which sat unused for decades, reemerged last year as a key tool in the ongoing crackdown on dissent that followed massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. 2019.
Authorities said they are also considering more serious charges against the duo under the sweeping national security law imposed on the city by Beijing in response to the sometimes violent protests.
The suspect has been charged with one count of sedition, while both suspects have been charged with possession of weapons and firearms without a licence, police confirmed on Tuesday afternoon.
The suspects, arrested in the Tsim Sha Shui neighborhood on Sunday, are accused of posting anti-government messages, including calls for the overthrow of the Chinese communist regime and the creation of a ‘shadow government and vigilante force’ “.
“With this vicious circle, we are very worried that the radicalized will go further and commit terrorist attacks,” Li said.
The arrests came after Hong Kong’s National Security Department – which enforces the law – sent an undercover officer to the martial arts studio, where the two suspects were teaching “combat tai chi”.
Police said they found illegal weapons including an air gun, eight crossbows, 30 steel-tipped arrows and a collection of blades. Airguns above a certain power level are considered firearms under Hong Kong law.
The suspects also allegedly urged people to resist anti-coronavirus policies, opposing the government’s contact tracing app and vaccination campaigns, police said.
Sedition carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
Hong Kong authorities are increasingly applying the “sedition” label to speeches that challenge official policies on the coronavirus.
Last month, singer Tommy Yuen and two others were arrested over social media posts that urged people to defy Covid-19 restrictions.