HK protests: man who allegedly spread rumours on Facebook of police officers assaulting women at detention centre pleads not guilty to incitement charges

28-Jul-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 9:33 AM Print This Post

A construction worker has denied inciting protesters to besiege a controversial Hong Kong detention centre by allegedly spreading rumours on social media that police officers had sexually assaulted women held there during last year’s social unrest.

Poon Yung-wai, 37, pleaded not guilty to two counts of incitement at West Kowloon Court on Monday, after he became the first defendant to face criminal prosecution for provoking violence on social media since anti-government protests erupted in June last year over the now-withdrawn extradition bill.

He was alleged to have published four Facebook posts between September 19 and 21, accusing police of committing heinous crimes at the San Uk Ling Holding Centre in the remote Man Kam To area near the city’s border with mainland China.

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The 80,000 sq ft facility was set up in 1979 to hold illegal immigrants before they were deported, but had been temporarily used to house arrested anti-government protesters last summer.

Prosecutors alleged Poon posted comments on an open Facebook group with more than 50,000 members under the alias “Kim Jong-un” North Korea’s leader saying female protesters detained in San Uk Ling had been molested and raped after they were given sedatives by police officers, with some committing suicide afterwards.

The court was told that Poon claimed that to conceal their deaths, officers dropped the women’s bodies from height and made it look like they died after jumping off a building, thus explaining a surge in suicide attempts during the unrest.

He further claimed that some male protesters had been beaten to death after they were forced to watch their female counterparts being assaulted by officers.

In other passages, the court heard, Poon claimed that the atrocities were jointly committed by local police, public security officers from the mainland, and “village thugs and triads”, while calling for people sharing similar political views to besiege San Uk Ling and rescue the detainees.

Prosecutors said Poon’s claims were meant to provoke some 52,609 members of the Facebook group as well as other users to take part in either an unlawful assembly or an unauthorised meeting outside the detention centre.

Police arrested Poon on October 16 outside his home on Kwai Chung Estate and seized a computer and four mobile phones. Subsequent searches confirmed that the accused had logged onto Facebook under the pseudonym Kim Jong-un with the devices.

Sergeant Wong Ming-ho, who was tasked with detecting illegal acts on the internet, told the court he carried out the investigation under the presumption that “Kim” had managed the Facebook group with a view to mobilising people for illegal gatherings. He agreed, however, that Poon had never specified the details of the proposed illegal meeting outside San Uk Ling.

The trial is expected to last for 10 days.


Category: Hong Kong

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