Hong Kong police said Wednesday they have arrested eight people for stealing and disclosing personal information of officers online, as the city grapples with the aftermath of unprecedented anti-government protests that saw its parliament ransacked.
The semi-autonomous city has been plunged into crisis by massive demonstrations since last month against its Beijing-backed government, sparked by a law that would have allowed extraditions to the mainland.
The anger spilled over on Monday as groups of mostly young, hardline protesters stormed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, spraying graffiti on the walls of its main chamber and defacing the city’s seal before police regained control of the building.
It was the latest in a number of tense face-offs — some violent — between protesters and authorities since the anti-government campaign began, and police have been accused of using excessive force and heavy-handed tactics against demonstrators.
Six men and two women, aged 16-40, were arrested Tuesday night for allegedly “doxxing” police officers, launching cyberattacks on police websites and inciting others to “commit damage”, Swalikh Mohammed of Hong Kong police told a press conference.
“Doxxing” is the online release of personal data stolen from targets, often to shame or incite harassment against them.
The alleged crimes “affected a large number of officers, resulting not only in nuisance but threats”, Mohammed said, adding that some officers and their family members received death threats. He did not offer further details.
Mohammed added that there were also failed attempts to take down police websites with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which involve overwhelming servers with a massive amount of junk requests.
Hong Kong police have said their investigations and operations are ongoing, and more people may be arrested.
Allegations against the force of excessive force and unlawful tactics have fuelled public anger in recent weeks, and many protest groups have demanded an investigation into how the police handled the demonstrations — the biggest wave of opposition against Beijing and the Hong Kong government since Britain returned the city to China in 1997.