Hong Kong mask manufacturer suspends business after being accused of possibly violating national security law over design and packaging of products

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A Hong Kong mask manufacturer has suspended its business after it was accused by pro-Beijing media of possibly violating the national security law as it used certain wordings in the design and packaging of its products that resembled slogans popular with the city’s anti-government protesters.

The company, Yellow Factory, announced on its Facebook page on Wednesday that the operations of its retail and online shops would remain suspended “temporarily”.

In a notice on its website, the company said: “Yellow Factory has no intention of violating the national security law. For the sake of employees and customers, we shall make internal adjustments.”

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A Post visit to its store in Causeway Bay on Wednesday found it had closed.

The incident came amid concerns over what critics called a “white terror” of political repression spread by Beijing in Hong Kong, through the imposition of the sweeping national security law in June.

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Earlier this week, the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organises the annual June 4 vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown, was also attacked by a mainland legal scholar for having breached the security law.

The city’s security minister John Lee Ka-chiu said no groups or individuals in Hong Kong would be above the law, though he refused to comment on the alliance.

Lee said: “All individuals, groups and organisations in the city are subject to the laws of Hong Kong. If there are violations, the law enforcement agencies will handle the cases in accordance with the law.”

Articles run by several pro-Beijing media on Monday accused Yellow Factory, which was set up in April, of trying to “incite hatred and violence among young people”, and “prolong the idea of resistance”.

The reports cited as an example that the acronym FDNOL, which could refer to “Five demands, not one less”, was printed on some of the masks produced by the company, while the firm’s logo also resembled a protester wearing a yellow helmet and goggles.

The packaging of the masks was also reported to carry the slogan “Get well Hong Kong; fight the virus of our times”, which, in Cantonese, pronounces like the popular anti-government slogan “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times”.

Masks at a Yellow Factory store in Mong Kok. Photo: Sam Tsang
Masks at a Yellow Factory store in Mong Kok. Photo: Sam Tsang

The reports quoted pro-Beijing legal researcher Willy Fu Kin-chi as saying the masks were publicising political messages and the shop operators could be held liable for secession and subversion.

The Security Bureau said in a statement it would not comment on individual remarks or scenarios. “On whether an organisation is guilty of the national security law, the prosecution has the burden of proof at the court. Whether the defendant is guilty or not would depend on relevant evidence, and ultimately be determined by the court having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case,” it said.

In a newspaper piece on Monday, mainland legal scholar Professor Tian Feilong accused the alliance of being a “colour revolution organisation” that aimed to overthrow the Chinese government.

Alliance chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said: “It is a threat to Hong Kong people. [Beijing] wants to spread white terror here and scare off Hong Kong people. But I can assure that the alliance will not be scared off. We will stand firm and continue to fight for our goals.”

Among the alliance’s goals are to “end one-party dictatorship” on the mainland, “build a democratic China”, and “demand accountability for the June 4 crackdown”.

“Tian’s piece tells the Hong Kong government which laws it can apply to crack down on the alliance. It is very much the mainland’s way of dealing with individuals and groups authorities are not happy with,” Lee said.

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Meanwhile, security minister Lee told legislators at Wednesday’s Legco meeting that the security law had restored order in Hong Kong, while the foundations of the city’s rule of law had remained intact.

“For example, four months after the law was enacted, the number of arrestees has dropped by 70 per cent. On special occasions such as October 1, the number of social incidents dropped by 90 per cent,” Lee said, referring to the National Day.

Citing the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2020 and the International Institute for Management Development’s World Competitiveness Yearbook 2020, he said Hong Kong remained among the top places in the world on the rule of law.

In the first index, Hong Kong clinched the sixteenth rank, retaining last year’s position. However, the polling data for the city was collected in 2017 and is unlikely to reflect any changes that followed the enactment of the security law. The same goes for the IMD index, for which the survey was conducted between February and May this year.

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