‘Police ban on street booths stifles freedom’

Confederation of Trade Union’s secretary-general, Mung Siu-tat, on Friday questioned whether Hong Kong people still enjoy freedom of speech, after his colleagues who criticised the government at their street booths were warned by the police not to “incite hatred” against the government.

Mung told a radio programme that more than ten officers surrounded and cordoned off a CTU booth on a Mong Kok footbridge on Thursday’s handover anniversary, saying they could be violating the ban on public gathering or taking part in an illegal assembly.

Mung said the police commander also warned of arresting them, after CTU members said on a loudspeaker that the administration was creating white terror through recent political suppression.

“The commander approached them nervously and went ‘I’m warning you, what you said incited hatred among residents against the government. If you go on we’ll arrest you’.” he said.

Mung said his colleagues closed the booth after opening for just an hour, adding the incident left him questioning if people are still free to openly criticise the authorities.

“Why would such remarks become incitement of hatred towards the administration on certain dates, when we often used to express views criticising the government’s shortcomings?” he asked.

“If we continue to criticise the government in the future, will we be charged with incitement of hatred towards the administration, killing our freedom of speech?”

Mung added the CTU also used to set up street booths in Causeway Bay – the starting point of the July 1st demonstration – but officers stopped them from doing so yesterday, without explaining why.

There was a heavy police presence in the shopping area on Thursday, snuffing out any hint of a protest.