Hong Kong police chief calls for fake news law

Hong Kong’s new police chief called for a fake news law on Saturday and blamed the media for plunging trust in his officers in the politically polarised finance hub.

His call comes as authorities carry out a sweeping crackdown on dissent and just days after outspoken newspaper Apple Daily was forced to fold following the freezing of its accounts under a tough new national security law.

Surveys show the police have been the least popular disciplinary service in the city since Hong Kong was rocked by huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests in 2019, during which allegations of police brutality emerged.

Police chief Raymond Siu said much of the blame lay with the media.

“I understand that there are residents who are still hostile against us. In this regard, I told my colleagues that many of these torn relationships and hostility against the police are due to fake news,” Siu said at his first media briefing since taking office.

“There is no legal definition of fake news at the moment, but if there is any legislation that could help us bring these people to justice, as law enforcers, we absolutely welcome it,” he added.

Hong Kong’s demonstrations subsided last year due to mass arrests, the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing’s imposition of the security law, which critics argue has been used to curb dissent.

Three former police officers were on Friday promoted to key positions in government, with former security minister John Lee becoming the city’s new number two official and an ex-police chief stepping into Lee’s security bureau role.

Last Thursday 500 police officers raided the newsroom of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily as authorities froze the company’s assets under the security law. 

Five executives of the paper were arrested and two were charged with conspiracy to collude with foreign forces. 

Apple Daily’s lead editorial writer was also arrested on Wednesday and the paper was forced to fold, saying it feared for the safety of staff.

Siu however said police were targeting national security offenders and not the news media.

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