Fears over freedom in Hong Kong are rising as an Australian researcher reveals he was followed and profiled by a Communist Party tabloid

HK flag ChinaA police officer stands guard in front of Chinese flags as pro-Beijing demonstrators hold a counter-rally during a protest march in Hong Kong on July 1, 2018, to coincide with the 21st anniversary of the city's handover from British to Chinese rule.PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images)

  • One of Hong Kong's fiercely pro-Beijing mastheads, Wen Wei Po, has revealed itself as the stalker of an Australian academic, nearly four days after he began tweeting evidence that he was being tailed around Hong Kong.
  • Dr. Kevin Carrico, a Chinese studies lecturer at Australia's Macquarie University, has been doing research in Hong Kong for 15 years and told Business insider he has never seen Hong Kong's position as a center of academic, social, and economic freedoms face a greater threat.

One of Hong Kong's fiercely pro-Beijing mastheads Wen Wei Po has revealed itself as the stalker of an Australian academic, nearly four days after he began tweeting evidence that he was being tailed around Hong Kong.

After tweeting a series of photos last week of his unexpected surveillance tail that shadowed him around the streets of Tung Chung , Kevin Carrico, a Chinese studies lecturer at Australia's Macquarie University, wondered aloud to his online followers who the stalker might be.

That question was answered on Monday, when Wen Wei Po, an arm of the Chinese Communist Party's liaison office in Hong Kong, came out with a scandalized front page spread proclaiming: "Independence advocate from Australia spreading independence in Hong Kong."

Carrico, who has spoken often with Business Insider, is an Australian permanent resident and a citizen of the United States working through an Australian government research grant to examine the growing tensions between Beijing and Hong Kong.

That did not stop Wen Wei Po from writing in detail about where Carrico went, who he spoke with, and even when he changed clothes.

Carrico HK.JPGWen Wei Po

"On the afternoon of the 11th of this month, a Hong Kong Wen Wei Po reporter found that Kaida Xiong 凱大熊 (Kaida/"Kay Bear," Carrico's Wen Wei Po Chinese name) first went to a restaurant in Mong Kok to meet with the founder and owner of the online media "Local News," Zeng Yiwen, and watched the two leave more than two hours later."

After that, Kaida Bear returned to the hotel where he stayed, and changed his shirt at night before attending a party in a building in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Wen Wei Po, together with Ta Kung Pao, are the increasingly aggressive pro-Beijing newspapers both essentially run out of the CCP's China Liaison Office, with a carte blanche approach to digging into the personal lives of anyone the CCP deems needs it.

Hong Kong surveillancePeople walk near a surveillance camera on a main street in Hong Kong Tuesday, April 18, 2017.AP Photo/Vincent Yu

The incident highlights concerns of a growing constriction around Hong Kong's historic freedoms, as China under President Xi Jinping asserts a "rejuvenation of the Chinese people," that yields to the authority of Beijing.

Carrico's friends and colleagues on Twitter, some of the better-known China academics from around the world, were at first lighthearted about his predicament, but soon grew concerned.

Carrico told Hong Kong Free Press he snapped several images of a woman in her 30s who he apparently thought may have been the one following him. He did not report the woman to the police because he was unsure if she was the suspect.

The Wen Wei Po story ran with a photo of Carrico leaving a talk on Hong Kong and Australian politics, organized by the Civil Society Development Resources Centre where Carrico was a guest speaker.

"Considering all of the tensions and problems in Hong Kong today, I find it unfortunate, but also unsurprising, that the Liaison Office put so much energy and effort into following around one academic," Carrico told HKFP.

Carrico told the Guardian that after 15 years of uninterrupted research in Hong Kong, he hoped the experience was not a sign of the changing times.

"Hong Kong can't follow China's path of banning journalists and researchers if it wants to call itself Asia's world city. I think the Hong Kong government might consider voicing their support for academic freedom, because clearly this is not a very welcoming message to send to academics," he said.
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