The secretary-general of the Hong Kong democracy movement Demosisto, Joshua Wong, accused the Hong Kong police on Thursday of hacking into his mobile phone and illegally obtaining evidence against him in his upcoming trial.
Wong was arrested in late August for participating in “unauthorized” protests and is currently undergoing legal proceedings that prevent him from leaving the country. Wong, who rose to prominence as a teen in the 2014 Umbrella Movement, denies Chinese propaganda claims that he is a separatist or seeking to bring American colonialism to Hong Kong.
Wong denounced the invasion of his privacy on Twitter Thursday, emphasizing that he never granted police permission to browse conversations on his phone and that he had used security protocol that only hacking could break. Illegally hacking into a suspect’s phone should, according to Hong Kong law, render the evidence inadmissible.
1/ Arrested on August 30, my phone was seized by #hkpolice. The phone can only be unlocked with passwords. Before court resumed yesterday, I have NEVER provided any passwords to #police, nor received any notice nor warrant for a search of my mobile device.
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) December 19, 2019
Wong said that police on Wednesday “submitted an evidence list, which allegedly included 4 text messages of mine from iPhone XR. Police can even identify how the messages were sent out, whether it’s from a mobile or desktop version of the app.”
“Since such functions can’t be found on ordinary user interface, that can only be possible with the help of state-sponsored hacking,” he continued. “It’s utterly alarming that police begins [sic] to hack mobile devices of #HKers, just like #China hacking iPhones & Android devices to target #Uyghurs.”
“Such warrantless search is also a blunt violation of the freedom & privacy of communication enshrined in Basic Law. I doubt whether such a search is lawful. Now it seems state-backed hackers get involved in the crackdown on HK movement. I urge to strengthen your cybersecurity,” he concluded.
The reference to Uyghurs is to the intense security state in place in western Xinjiang province, China, officially an autonomous Uyghur state. The Communist Party has spent the past several years installing advanced surveillance technology throughout Xinjiang to monitor Uyghurs.
Two years ago, China passed a law imposing mandatory government GPS tracking of all cars in Xinjiang. It has since placed cameras in nearly every public place in the region and built over 1,000 concentration camp, where Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are sent for torture, slavery, and communist indoctrination. Those not sent to concentration camps are arrested using “predictive policing” that monitors a person’s private communications for suspiciously anti-communist activity.
Chinese officials have claimed the measures are necessary because Uyghurs are naturally predisposed to radical Islamic activities and defended them by alleging that it similarly abuses the privacy rights of all Chinese citizens.
Hong Kong’s protest movement has repeatedly warned the world that its members believe China will soon expand its human rights atrocities in Xinjiang to all of China, and first and foremost Hong Kong to suppress the calls for democracy.
A day after prosecutors submitted evidence against Wong, the court also extended its travel ban on the activist, preventing him from visiting Taiwan and the United Kingdom. Wong had reportedly filed an appeal, noting that he had received invitations to visit Taiwan on the eve of its presidential election next month and offered the opportunity to speak at Oxford University.
The travel ban preceded yet another restrictive measure against Wong, who insisted on participating in politics following his arrest for protesting: banning him from running for office. Wong was the only candidate of hundreds in last month’s district council elections to have his application for candidacy rejected, on the ground that he is a “separatist” and does not respect China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong. He has rejected this characterization, stating that he merely wants Hong Kong residents to be able to elect their leaders. While Hong Kongers can vote in the local district council elections, they cannot elect their chief executive or most of the lawmakers of the more powerful Legislative Council.
The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the Chinese Communist Party issued a statement following his disqualification accusing Wong of having “repeatedly grovelled to foreign powers for sympathy and begged for interference.” The Global Times, Beijing’s most prominent English-language propaganda outlet, branded Wong a “political extremist and rogue” and urged Hong Kong protesters to ostracize him from the pro-democracy movement.
“[W]hat he does every day is to try to get rid of Hong Kong’s Basic Law and turn the city into an anti-China fortress manipulated by the U.S.,” the Global Times declared, offering as evidence the fact that Wong has testified before Congress on China’s authoritarian ambitions for Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong democracy movement erupted in June against a proposed law that would have allowed China to extradite Hong Kongers into Chinese prisons. The protesters have issued five demands of their government: a full withdrawal of that law, which the government granted, and four other demands, which they have not. The protesters have requested freedom for fellow protesters in jail, the right to elect their Legislative Council representatives, for the government to stop calling them “rioters,” and an independent probe into police brutality.