n Tuesday evening, a 22-year-old student was arrested on “public nuisance” charges in Hong Kong for serving as the administrator of a group on the Telegram app which shared information concerning the extradition bill protests.
The student, Ivan Ip, served as the admin for the group “@parade69 (公海总谷)” which had more than 27,000 members. Hong Kong’s Stand News reports that police arrived at Ip’s residence in the New Territories to arrest him at 8 pm on Tuesday.
Another admin confirmed the arrest on the group which was soon shut down by its creator in order to protect members.
Anti-extradition protesters in Hong Kong have been using different social media apps to coordinate and share information. Telegram is one of the most favored options because of its encrypted messaging service. In order to keep demonstrators from communicating as they surrounded Hong Kong’s parliament building on Wednesday, Telegram’s founder says that China coordinated a mass DDoS attack on the app.
Ip was released on bail at 4 am on Wednesday morning. He told reporters that he had shared information about the protests online but hadn’t actually taken to the streets himself, so he was extremely shocked to have been arrested.
When interviewed, Ip charged that police had demanded that he unlock his phone and transfer all his data from Telegram to their computer, including member lists and chat records. During the hours-long interrogation, he says that police asked him about the identities of the group’s creator and admins, and about the plans of other protesters.
Police documents obtained by Stand News revealed that Ip was arrested on “public nuisance” charges because the police had sufficient evidence to believe that he and other group members were plotting an attack on the Legislative Council building.
The colonial-era “public nuisance” charge was used earlier this year to sentence some of the leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement to prison terms of up to 16 months. Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu has declared that while that move was controversial enough, arresting ordinary citizens who are not even engaged in protesting is even more so.
“You have the right to keep your phone locked, you have the right to stay silent, and you have the right to contact a lawyer and make decisions after considering the lawyer’s opinions,” Yeung reminded Hongkongers.