Hong Kong police on Thursday arrested two shopkeepers on suspicion of "seditious" acts over their social media posts calling on residents to resist coronavirus restrictions, as the city struggles with its worst outbreak to date.
Police said the two women, aged 21 and 24, had used their shop's social media accounts to "incite hatred and incite others to violate anti-epidemic regulations."
The two were arrested under a colonial-era law, police confirmed, adding that officers found posters that violated the law when searching the shop in the Mong Kok district and the women's residences.
Hong Kong police did not give specifics on what the women allegedly proposed and whether it involved violence. The offense carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.
This week, Hong Kong tightened social distancing measures and announced compulsory testing after the city was overwhelmed by thousands of fresh coronavirus infections a day.
The finance hub doubled down on its "zero-COVID" strategy after Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered the city to get the virus under control by any means necessary.
Police did not identify the women or the store, but local media reported that dozens of officers had raided a shop Thursday in Mong Kok.
The Facebook and Instagram accounts matching that shop's name displayed posts criticizing Hong Kong's restrictive anti-COVID policies as "creating panic" and stifling mass protests.
The posts urged the public to avoid vaccination and not to cooperate with the city's contact tracing app, adding that students should "pretend to be sick" after getting jabs.
The arrests came on the same day that Hong Kong launched its "vaccine pass," which requires residents to get jabbed before entering locations such as malls, supermarkets and restaurants.
Earlier this month, police arrested singer Tommy Yuen for publishing "seditious" social media posts—some of which allegedly involved smearing the government's anti-Covid measures, according to police.
China is remolding Hong Kong in its own authoritarian image using a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing, as well as sedition laws left over from British colonial rule.
More than 160 people have been arrested under the national security law as of last month—most of them opposition politicians, activists, journalists and rights workers.