Hong Kong youth activist Joshua Wong said on Monday he has been subjected to “intensified” surveillance since he filed his candidacy for a seat in the Legislative Council.
Wong said he was shadowed by multiple suspicious vehicles before and after he submitted his application for the election, a clear and possibly deliberately intimidating escalation of the surveillance commonly directed at pro-democracy leaders.
“Everyone should be careful and avoid being out and about alone,” he warned, having previously told a press conference that he worried about being “extradited to China” and tossed into a “black jail in Beijing” under Hong Kong’s new national security law.
Coconuts Hong Kong translated Wong’s Facebook post about the suspicious vehicles that followed him around on Monday:
In a Facebook post written on Monday night, Wong said he took an Uber to a police station, the Wong Tai Sin District Office to submit his candidacy for the Legislative Council elections, and later to Mong Kok for a press conference.
On all three journeys, he noticed vehicles – including a seven-seater van and a motorbike – shadowing him, so much so that his Uber driver asked whether they were being followed.
“In the Cross-Harbor Tunnel, Mong Kok and Wong Tai Sin, I repeatedly saw the same cars tailing [me]. It absolutely is not just a coincidence,” he wrote.
“I don’t know whether… it’s the police, national security officers, paparazzi, or where they come from. But I choose to make this known to remind others to be cautious about their safety,” he added.
Wong compared the situation in Hong Kong with Taiwan’s “White Terror,” an era of political repression that began in 1949 and lasted for decades.
Wong and other Hong Kong democracy activists have long invoked the White Terror in comparisons with their own increasingly repressive government, but the comparison became even more popular after the imposition of Beijing’s draconian national security law, in part because dissidents came up with a clever way of expressing their opposition without risking arrest for “subversion” under the law: they hold up blank white pieces of paper to evoke the memory of the White Terror.
Most of the other slogans popular with the Hong Kong protest movement were ruled illegal and subversive under the security law, but protesters and the businesses that support their efforts reasoned that even the Chinese Communist Party and its lackeys would have a hard time banning blank sheets of paper.
“I wonder if there’s still rule of law if sticking a piece of paper on the wall is illegal,” mused one customer at a protester-friendly Hong Kong diner quoted by the Associated Press on Tuesday. “It’s just using a different way to express our demands. If you don’t allow us to protest that way, we’ll find another way.”
The AP observed that not only did the owner of the cafe in question cover his windows with blank sticky notes to send the new crackdown-resistant signal of protest, but he even added an origami figure of Winnie the Pooh, banned in China because his honey-infused physique is considered insulting to Chinese dictator Xi Jinping.
Joshua Wong and his fellow dissidents are not the only ones worried about a new White Terror taking shape in Hong Kong. Bloomberg News on Monday reported that a growing number of foreign tech firms are abandoning the city because they, and their clients, fear repression under the new security law.
“We are now in a dilemma. If we follow the law in Hong Kong, we may violate other countries’ regulations. We worry that people will not trust us someday if we tell them we are a Hong Kong-based company,” said Ben Cheng, co-founder of a software company called Oursky.
According to Cheng, some of his overseas business partners have already made it clear they are no longer comfortable sharing sensitive data with Hong Kong operations, so Oursky is planning to establish offices in the U.K. and Japan.
Bloomberg cited a recent American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong report that found about half of American businesspeople saying they have plans to pull out of the city.