12 January 2020
Hong Kong’s Security Secretary John Lee has drawn criticism for suggesting that some protesters may have received training from foreign forces. Photo: Now News video/screenshot
Hong Kong’s Security Secretary John Lee has drawn criticism for suggesting that some protesters may have received training from foreign forces. Photo: Now News video/screenshot

Some protesters may have received foreign training: John Lee

Hong Kong’s security chief said on Wednesday that there is reason to believe that some of the city’s protesters may have received outside help, in terms of training and tactics, for stirring up trouble in the streets.?

Pointing to the months-long demonstrations that were seemingly well planned,?Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said he won’t dismiss the possibility that some of the participants in the anti-government protests had received training locally and even overseas.

The propaganda and mobilization capabilities witnessed during the protest movement give rise to the suspicion that the protesters may have been coached, Lee said in the Legislative Council.

The comments came in response to a question from a pro-Beijing lawmaker, Wong Ting-kwong of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, on whether weapons seized by the police amid the ongoing protests could be linked to foreign terrorist organizations.

Lee said he is pretty sure that some of the protesters had been trained locally and even overseas.

“We firmly believe that they have undergone some form of training. Apart from being trained locally, we believe some of them could have received training by foreigners. Because we can see how organized they are and the propaganda they use,” Lee said.

“It seems that they plan every operation or incident in advance with a deliberate script, in a syndicated manner. In terms of resources and the mobilization effort, we don’t believe that a handful of rioters could organize such major events,” he said.

The security chief added that he had seen reports in online media that suggested that some of the protesters had taken part in training provided by foreign groups, RTHK reported.

Though “there is no evidence linking the cases to overseas terrorist organizations”, Lee said the government “will closely monitor and cautiously examine the cases to identify any possible risk of involving local terrorism.”

Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching of Council Front said it was irresponsible of Lee to make such allegations without providing any evidence, RTHK reported.

“His imagination has become so far-fetched, because this allegation is completely groundless. There’s not even one single news story in Hong Kong or elsewhere to support that sort of allegation. He drew that conclusion on the basis of his personal impression. That’s perfectly ridiculous,” the public broadcaster quoted Mo as saying.

According to Lee, a total of 6,943 people have been arrested at public events since June 9 last year for crimes such as taking part in a riot, arson, wounding, assaulting police officers, etc, and that 1,082 cases among them had already entered into or were in the course of legal proceedings.

As for the rest, 338 of the arrested persons had been released unconditionally while 5,523 were released on bail pending further investigation or pending further probe after refusing to be bailed, according to the official.

In other comments, Lee said on Wednesday that the police had performed digital forensic examination on 3,721 mobile phones belonging to arrested persons or suspects between June and November last year after obtaining search warrants issued by the court.

Facing questions from pan-democratic lawmaker Charles Mok Nai-Kwong, who represents the information technology functional constituency, the security chief however refused to go into details.

“As the critical technologies used for the examinations are confidential information, disclosing such information may reveal to criminals details of [operations of law enforcement agencies (LEAs)], thus allowing criminals to take advantage by undermining LEAs’ capabilities in combating serious crimes and maintaining public safety. As such, I cannot disclose the information,” Lee said.

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