Hong Kong authorities have seized nearly 9000 Thai cleaning products suspected to have wrong labelling from a shop founded by a pro-democracy activist facing charges under the city’s contentious national security law.
Customs officers on Thursday raided 25 shops belonging to the chain, AbouThai, and arrested a 33-year-old male director of the group, the government said in a statement.
The suspect had been released on bail and further arrests had not been ruled out, it added.
“The product information marked on the packages of the products involved failed to bear Chinese and English bilingual warnings or cautions,” it said, adding the estimated market value of the 8805 products seized was about HK$400,000 (US$51,400).
Under Hong Kong’s Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance, warnings or cautions on products must be in both English and Chinese and are required to be “legibly and conspicuously shown on the goods”.
Customs chiefs said the raids were carried out in connection with missing safety warnings on cleaning products, with some only having warnings or cautions in Thai, while others bore warnings or cautions in Thai and English.
The company’s founder, Mike Lam, is among 47 democrats charged under the city’s national security law on a charge of conspiracy to commit subversion and is currently on bail.
Crowds queued outside branches of the shop across the city on Friday to show support for Lam, with some saying they believed the raid was politically motivated.
“I find it unreasonable that the Customs targeted AbouThai. That’s why I come here to support. I am quite touched that many people come,” said Chris, who declined to give his full name due to the sensitivity of the national security law.
The legislation punishes what Beijing broadly defines as secessionism, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in jail.
Local broadcaster RTHK quoted Vincent Chan, from the customs consumer protection bureau, as saying the department condemned any “false accusation” that the raid was an “act of repression”.
Hong Kong anti-government protesters have queued outside businesses that openly support the democracy movement since anti-government protests flared in 2019.
The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a promise of safeguards for its wide-ranging autonomy. Democracy activists say authorities are chipping away at those freedoms, accusations which officials in Beijing and Hong Kong reject.
- Reporting by Jessie Peng, Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Nick Macfie, of Reuters.