Hongkong Post criticised for refusing to send democracy activists' fliers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 4:56am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 10:59am

The leader of the Hongkong Post employees' union openly criticised the postal service for refusing to mail tens of thousands of leaflets on civil disobedience produced by democracy activists.

Union of Hongkong Post Office Employees chairman Ip Kam-fu accused Hongkong Post of playing politics by refusing to deliver the fliers from the student-led pro-democracy group Scholarism.

When it denied Scholarism's application to mail the fliers, it told Scholarism that the contents breached its ban on "illegal, obscene, immoral, indecent, offensive or libellous writing".

On Commercial Radio yesterday, Ip said: "I see no problem with Scholarism's pamphlets." He said he believed the decision not to distribute them was "a political judgment".

The pamphlet contains a series of questions and answers on civil disobedience, and also explains why genuine universal suffrage goes beyond a one-man, one-vote ballot system.

There is no mention of the Occupy Central movement, which vows to mobilise 10,000 people to block roads in Central if the government fails to offer a reform proposal for the 2017 chief executive election that it finds satisfactory. The government has insisted that the plan is illegal.

People don't have to pay heed to the pamphlets, Ip said. The choice is "very personal".

Ip, who has scrutinised similar applications to Hongkong Post's distribution service, said Scholarism's materials neither breached the regulations nor contained illegal elements, compared to past leaflets he had refused to approve. Those consisted of personal attacks.

A spokesperson for Hongkong Post said the leaflets' references to "civil disobedience" implied the taking of unlawful actions, such as holding a public meeting without giving prior notice to the Commissioner of Police as required in the Public Order Ordinance.

"The content of the proposed circular seeks to give publicity to taking unlawful actions," the spokesperson said.

Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong Chi-fung said he understood the decision had been approved by Postmaster General Jessie Ting Yip Yin-mei.

"We have never called on people to take part in any civil disobedience action in our pamphlets, but [we] explain why students support pressing for democracy using such means," he said. "Would the post office approve our pamphlets if we printed only the words 'civil disobedience' in black and white?"

The Democratic Party, in contrast, apparently skirted such controversy earlier this month by asking the Housing Department to approve its mass mailing. It delivered leaflets to 720,000 households.

The department's approval was granted without a fee.

Democratic Party vice-chairman Lo Kin-hei said it did not cross their minds to use Hongkong Post because of the enormous cost. He added: "We recognised the sensitivity of the topic and worried it might be banned - that is why we try to use an academic perspective in explaining the idea of civil disobedience."