Ex-Hong Kong Leader Promotes Bounties on Anti-China Protesters

(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s former leader took to social media to promote a website offering cash bounties to identify protesters who have perpetrated vandalism and violence, including the defacing of Chinese flags and national emblems, as unrest rocks the city.

Leung Chun-ying, who governed the former British colony between 2012 and 2017 and was in power during earlier pro-democracy protests in 2014, posted a link on his personal Facebook page that promised a crowd-funded bounty and anonymity to potential tipsters.

The website, 803.hk, is named after an Aug. 3 incident in which a demonstrator flung the Chinese flag into the water of Hong Kong’s harbor. It features requests for information on protesters who have lashed out at symbols of China’s authority as demonstrations opposing Beijing’s grip on the city continue. In Hong Kong, it is illegal to desecrate the national flag or emblem, with punishment ranging from a stiff fine to three years in jail.

“Since June, violence and unlawful behavior by a small group of people have seriously harmed Hong Kong,” the website said. “After someone threw the national flag into the sea on Aug. 3, we have decided to offer a bounty if someone finds the suspects.”

Ex-Hong Kong Leader Promotes Bounties on Anti-China Protesters

Cash Rewards

For identification leading to prosecution, 803.hk is offering upwards of HK$1 million ($127,000) for information about the identity of the person who threw China’s flag in the water, and HK$1 million for the protester who splashed black paint on the national emblem at the Chinese central government’s liaison office.

It also offered HK$500,000 to identify the person who defaced the Hong Kong emblem inside the city’s Legislative Council complex, which was broken into by protesters in early July.

Ex-Hong Kong Leader Promotes Bounties on Anti-China Protesters

Encouraging people to single out protesters is a potentially dangerous development that highlights the hardening divide between Hong Kong’s pro-establishment forces -- who prize close ties with the mainland -- and anti-China demonstrators who are pushing for greater democracy.

There has already been violence between the two groups. One incident of mob violence in the suburb of Yuen Long on July 21 saw unidentified white-shirted men attack protesters and bystanders, horrifying the city and raising fears of wider violence. Clashes have also escalated in recent weeks between demonstrators and Hong Kong’s police force.

Leung, who angered pro-democracy protesters with his handling of the Occupy movement five years ago, first floated the idea of a bounty on his Facebook page earlier this month, a day after the Chinese flag was thrown into the harbor. At the time, he said he’d offer HK$1 million to anyone who could help identify the culprit.

Last year, Leung also called for a revocation of the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club lease after it hosted a pro-independence activist.

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