The Hong Kong Customs Department arrested a member of the local pro-democracy group Demosisto on Monday for allegedly violating a Trade Descriptions Ordinance by selling masks labeled “Not made in China,” local public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) reported on Monday.
Demosisto vice-chairman Isaac Cheng, 20, was the second member of the group arrested in the past few days. Last Friday, Tobias Leung Yin-fung, 24, was arrested on the same charges, as reported by the South China Morning Post (SCMP). Both men have been released on bail.
“The 20-year-old man [Cheng] arrested today has been released on bail and case investigation is ongoing,” Customs said in a statement on Monday.
Amid the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, Demosisto has been selling masks with the label “not made in China” since April, according to SCMP. When Leung was arrested last week, the spokesman for Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department said that “the trader” of the masks [Leung] “had failed to offer authentication that the masks complied with what was stated on the label,” violating the city’s Trade Descriptions Ordinance. The department reportedly told Demosisto that the group could not legally assert that its masks were “not made in China,” if the products were manufactured in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, or China.
Hong Kong and Macau are “special administrative regions” of China, allowed autonomy but not sovereignty according to local laws. Taiwan is a sovereign nation whose government operations totally independently of Beijing.
In addition to arresting Leung, last Friday customs seized 32,725 masks from Demosisto’s headquarters — worth about HK$93,500 [$12,000] — according to the report.
In a statement released last Friday, Demosisto accused the Customs Department of engaging in “political repression” with the arrests, a claim that officials denied on Monday, according to RTHK.
Customs strongly condemns any false accusation maliciously alleging that its law enforcement action against the trader is ‘political repression.’ The department stresses that its ‘Guardian’ operation, which has been running since January this year, aims to ensure that common protective items available for sale in the market comply with the regulation of relevant ordinances.
On Monday, Customs and Excise Commissioner Hermes Tang issued a statement supporting Beijing’s plan to impose repressive legislation on Hong Kong under the guise of a new national security law.
“The department will collaborate with other disciplinary forces in protecting Hong Kong and safeguarding national security under the guidance of the Security Bureau,” Tang said, according to RTHK’s report.
When a draft of Hong Kong’s national security law was submitted to China’s national legislature last week, Demosisto co-founder Joshua Wong lamented the development as detrimental to his opposition party’s pro-democracy movement.
“I also wonder what will become of Hong Kong after the National Security Law has passed. How many will be prosecuted? How many groups will be replaced? To what extent will the oppression be? Will we be transferred to China? Arrest or imprisonment?” he said in a statement shared by the Hong Kong Free Press.