The Hong Kong government has warned its workers not to take part in a banned demonstration on China’s National Day on October 1, saying authorities have “zero tolerance” for civil servants who violate the law.
In a letter addressed to all government employees on Wednesday, Secretary for Civil Service Patrick Nip said staffers should remain vigilant of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic during the upcoming holiday on Thursday, which coincides with the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Civil servants should not participate in activities that may breach Covid-19 public gathering restrictions, Nip said.
He pointed to the police objection to a pro-democracy march and said: “The activity concerned is considered as an unauthorised assembly, taking part in it may breach the law.”
The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) originally called on people to walk from Causeway Bay to Central to reiterate the “five demands” of last year’s pro-democracy protests. The march was also intended to urge for the release of 12 Hongkongers detained in mainland China for allegedly illegally crossing the border while attempting to flee to Taiwan on a speedboat.
The force opposed CHRF’s application to hold the march last Friday, citing public health risks as well as the potential of violence, citing past events organised by the Front.
The Civil Service minister said there was “distorted and false” information online encouraging citizens to attend the illicit march.
He said as of the end of September, 46 civil servants had been arrested and suspended for allegedly taking part in illegal public activities.
“The government extremely values the conduct and discipline of civil servants. [It] has zero tolerance for law-breaking civil servants,” Nip wrote. “I believe my colleagues can tell right from wrong and abide by the law.”
On Wednesday, the Director of China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong Luo Huining said the city should strengthen patriotic education for civil servants and teenagers, covering topics such as understanding the Chinese constitution and the Basic Law. They should also learn about national security, Chinese history and culture, the Beijing official said.