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Craig Choy, legal counsel for internet group Keyboard Frontline, hopes 10,000 people will attend today’s rally against the contentious copyright bill. Photo: Felix Wong

Hong Kong police hunt 'Black Bloc': Anarchist gang blamed for Legco bin blast

Police revelation comes as lawmakers meet in another bid to debate controversial copyright bill amid mass protest and tightened security

A group of protesters suspected to be linked to last week’s blast outside the Legislative Council building has been identified by police after poring over security camera footage, the Post has learned.

This came ahead of today’s rally against the controversial copyright bill as a radical pan-democratic lawmaker has vowed to adjourn the bill, a move that Liberal Party’s James Tien Pei-chun said the party would support. 

The Federation of Trade Unions, another pro-government party, said it would discuss what to do today, fuelling uncertainty to the political showdown at Legco’s second reading of the bill that has been dubbed “Internet Article 23”. 

Force insiders said initial investigations showed they belonged to a local radical group who went online to call on people to take part in a rally against the second reading of the copyright bill originally scheduled last Wednesday. 

The meeting, however, was adjourned as too few lawmakers were at the meeting and the rally organised by concern group Keyboard Frontline was cancelled. The blast happened at about 8.30pm. 

The second reading of the bill is expected to be resumed today and the protest will take place from 4pm onwards. 

The group that had been identified called  themselves “black bloc” members because they wore black clothing, sunglasses and face masks to conceal their identities, one source with knowledge of the investigation said. 

READ MORE: Manhunt begins after explosion outside Hong Kong legislature

A photo depicting an image of “black bloc” was posted by radical group Hong Kong Indigenous last Tuesday ahead of the protest. The group called on supporters to follow suit. 
Police refused to comment if the group identified was Hong Kong Indigenous.

“They are anti-government protesters. It seemed they wanted to cause a mess in Hong Kong,” said one source. It is understood the gang consisted of more than 10 locals. 

The source said police had identified some members of the gangs, adding that “arresting them is just a matter of time.”

In light of last week’s blast, Keyboard Frontline said it will step up its safety measures for today’s protest, the turnout of which is expected to be 10,000.

The burning rubbish bin outside the Legislative Council building in Admiralty. Photo: SCMP Pictures

“We hope to have around 100 volunteers as marshals,” Craig Choy, legal counsel for Keyboard Frontline, told the Post. “But we only have limited manpower so we urge participants to pay attention to anything suspicious. Safety is our priority.” 

Choy said Keyboard Frontline had little contact with Hong Kong Indigenous and was not aware of their plans. 

Keyboard Frontline and other concern groups including Youngspiration have seized the extra week to lobby pro-establishment lawmakers as well as citizens to back their opposition to the bill. 

The Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 expands the scope of copyright infringement and proposed criminal sanctions against digital piracy. The government has been under fire for the dated Hong Kong copyright law. 

READ MORE: Pictured: Masked suspects hunted by Hong Kong police over Legco blast

Speaking to the Post, Bar Association chairwoman Winnie Tam Wan-chi said it was wrong for pan-democrats to say the US approach of fair use would offer wider protection than the fair dealing, because two of the exceptions the local government agreed - satire and commenting on current affairs - are not explicitly provided in US, or even Britain.

“Hong Kong has the widest fair-dealing exceptions anywhere in the world,” Tam, an intellectual property lawyer, said. 

By asking officials to adopt certain overseas exemptions, pan-democrats were like “cherry-picking” without due consideration to the other aspects of those legal systems, said Tam.

The top barrister said copyright owners “can’t be bothered” to  go after “de minimis acts”. Internet users, though, fear the loss of freedom of expression, saying the government’s proposed exceptions – which also included parody, caricature, pastiche, reporting current affairs and quotation – do not provide sufficient leeway.

The government has been attempting to convince the public that the bill is safe and not an attempt to take freedom of speech away. 

 The views among stakeholders are still divided. Industry associations supported the bill but celebrated figures from the cultural and creative industries opposed the bill. 

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: ‘Black bloc’ activists pinpointed over blast