A dozen social activists, including a radical lawmaker, found themselves unexpectedly shut out of their Facebook accounts for up to six hours yesterday, days before the sensitive anniversary of the June 4 incident.
While some of the blocked activists were sceptical that there was a direct link between the account suspension and Monday's 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing, they called on the world's most popular social media company to explain its behaviour.
Some suggested that a concerted effort by a number of users to press the 'report' button to complain about posts on the activists' pages could have triggered the company's systems to automatically suspend their accounts.
Jo Lee Wai-yee, an assistant to People Power lawmaker Wong Yuk-man, was kicked out of her Facebook account while logged in, moments after sharing a picture poking fun at outgoing Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, which had been posted by another of those whose accounts were later blocked.
'I left a comment on my wall, saying: 'He [Tsang] could only be corrupt for 30 [more] days',' Lee said. 'Facebook did not give me a reason [for deactivation]. This is terrible. I believe June 4 could be a secondary reason.'
Willis Ho Kit-wang, a vice-president of Lingnan University's student union, said she had been blocked after uploading a photograph of a hunger strike by students protesting at the June 4 crackdown.
The names of other blocked users quickly circulated, among them lawmaker 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, of the League of Social Democrats. Leung said he did not know whether he had been blocked but would check his account.
Political cartoonist Cuson Lo, one of those blocked, said Facebook told him he had been accused of using a false identity.
Benson Tsang, another of those blacklisted, said he believed there was an organised effort to use the report function to block users.
'I have no party affiliation, no background, no power, but I was 'killed' in this Facebook action,' he wrote. 'I'm just a person who could not have been more ordinary.'
A Hong Kong spokeswoman for Facebook did not respond to a request for comment last night.
Meanwhile, 16 pan-democrat lawmakers held a small candlelight vigil outside the Legislative Council last night after they finished the historical marathon debate over the by-election bill.
They said the long time on the bill had made it impossible this year to raise a motion asking Beijing to vindicate those who died 23 years ago.