First-day blues for security law tip-off hotline

Local | Wallis Wang 6 Nov 2020

A police hotline for reporting national security cases on social messaging app WeChat has been overwhelmed on the first day of its launch.

The hotline was not working after being overloaded when too many people tried to add the number yesterday.

WeChat users failed to add the police account in the afternoon as the system warned "too many attempts, try again later," while police said they were aware of the situation and were working on solutions.

Apart from WeChat, people can also send tip-offs anonymously to the police's national security department by e-mail or SMS, the police said in a Facebook post yesterday.

"This hotline is solely for receiving national security-related intelligence such as information, photos, audio, or video clips," the police said, adding the hotline will not be answered and that people shouldn't expect a reply.

Police said they would not collect any personal data from those who send information through the hotline, nor would they leak any information provided by the public to third parties.

It also emphasized that the hotline is set up for non-urgent national security matters only instead of general police reporting.

The launch of the reporting hotline has been criticized by pro-democracy lawmakers after sources revealed that police aimed to deter potential offenders with "eyes and ears everywhere."

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun has said the launch of the hotline would destroy interpersonal trust among Hongkongers and create a chilling effect.

To said it's common for people to have their own political thoughts and like to share them with friends and colleagues. But now they are facing a risk of being reported to police for violating the national security law.

But online comments under the police's Facebook post yesterday were supportive, with some saying they will report their friends' misbehavior immediately.

"It's Hongkongers' responsibility to speak out if they find someone is doing intolerable things, and it is urgent to report what the criminals have done. We should report these crimes together, and support police officers to strictly enforce the law," one person said online.

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