Hong Kong opposition lawmaker refuses official demand to remove ‘offending’ street banners taking aim at government

Natalie Wong
·3-min read

A Hong Kong opposition lawmaker is refusing to comply with an official demand she remove two street banners criticising bias in the education system and calling for the release of 12 Hong Kong fugitives being held in mainland China.

The Lands Department said the banners, which hang from metal railings lining the pavement, violated rules requiring content is not obscene or objectionable and complies with laws.

Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan earlier received official permission from the department to display the publicity materials in Kowloon West, the geographical constituency she represents.

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The banner criticising biased education in Hong Kong. Photo: Dickson Lee
The banner criticising biased education in Hong Kong. Photo: Dickson Lee

One banner takes aim at “brainwashing education”, while the other urges the release of the dozen Hongkongers. They were intercepted by the Chinese coastguard while trying to flee to Taiwan in late August and are facing charges in Hong Kong stemming from the social unrest that erupted last year.

But after Wong put up the banners in 30 different spots, the department sent her a letter demanding she take down two hanging along Pui Ching Road in Ho Man Tin.

“[The department] has revoked the permission given to you to display the relevant publicity materials. You must remove them within two days,” wrote district lands officer Chan Yat-hang.

Are we not allowed to criticise the government any more?

Helena Wong, Democratic Party lawmaker

The letter did not elaborate on how the slogans breached the guidelines, which mandate roadside publicity materials be solely for “the promotion of public awareness of matters of general and significant community interest of non-commercial nature”.

Wong said her right to free speech was being violated and she would stand her ground.

“We’re just fighting for the basic human rights of Hongkongers detained in the mainland,” she said. “[The letter] was absolutely groundless. Are we not allowed to criticise the government any more?”

She suspected authorities were acting upon complaints as the letter targeted only the two banners.

Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong. Photo: Edmond So
Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong. Photo: Edmond So

The department’s demand follows rallies staged in several cities around the world over the weekend calling for the release of the Hongkongers, who are being held at a Shenzhen detention centre in Guangdong province.

Ten have been charged with illegally crossing the border, and the remaining two with organising the crossing.

City leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Tuesday said the rallies were unsurprising given international tensions over last year’s anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

Lam said the government would be “very conscientious and robust” in refuting accusations.

She reiterated the dozen should face the consequences of their actions on the mainland, after which the city government would have arrangements made to bring them back to answer charges in Hong Kong.

Additional reporting by Cheryl Heng

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