Lampposts laid lowover spying fears

Local | Jane Cheung 26 Aug 2019

About 20 smart lampposts were wrecked in Saturday's protests in Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay over suspicions that the lampposts could spy on residents.

Meanwhile, rally organizer Ventus Lau Wing-hong and 28 others remained in custody after being arrested.

It was the first time in two weekends of peaceful rallies that protests again turned violent, with baton-wielding police firing tear gas and pepper spray and protesters throwing bricks, petrol bombs, corrosive liquid and other projectiles at riot police.

The damage to the lampposts could cost up to HK$2.8 million to fix and they would take up to three months to be reinstalled.

"Due to smart devices being damaged and power supplies affected, 20 smart lampposts could not provide lighting services and their smart devices were unable to function," said a spokesman of the office of the government chief information officer.

The Kwun Tong rally focused on privacy issues arising from the smart lampposts, 50 of which were piloted in the Kwun Tong and Kai Tak development zone in June.

Angry protesters dissected several of the 20 damaged lampposts in Kowloon Bay after 5pm to check their components. A bluetooth device was found in one lamppost, which protesters suspected to be a product of a Chinese IT company.

The device, with the logo of Ticktack Technology printed on it, was thought to be a product of a subsidiary of Shanghai Sansi Technology - one of the central government's suppliers for mass surveillance on mainlanders.

But the information office spokesman said Ticktack Technology is a local IT start-up owned by two local shareholders.

He claimed the device is a bluetooth beacon for "positioning service, which is more precise than Global Positioning System."

The information office is responsible for the three-year smart lamppost pilot scheme to install 400 devices.

The spokesman said yesterday that the office is working with the Highways Department to check each lamppost to examine their condition in detail.

Basic lighting services along Sheung Yuet Road in Kowloon Bay will resume in three days.

Police arrested 19 men and 10 women aged between 17 and 52 for illegal assembly, possession of weapons and police assault.

Lau, 25, was arrested for illegal assembly when he was packing protest materials at 6.15pm on Saturday after he announced the end of the Kwun Tong rally.

Two of the arrests were made in Richland Gardens, when residents of the Home Ownership estate besieged the property management office after some residents dressed in black were refused entry and passwords for buildings were changed without notice.

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