Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong says phone hacked by police

MANILA, Philippines – Leading Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong believes that his phone may have been hacked by police.

Wong, secretary-general of pro-democracy party Demosistō, tweeted that he was arrested on August 30, with authorities seizing his phone, an Apple iPhone XR. On Wednesday, December 18, the police submitted an evidence list, which Wong said "allegedly included 4 text messages of mine from iPhone XR."

The police were allegedly even able to identify how the messages were sent, whether through desktop or mobile app.

Wong said he never gave his password to the authorities, leading him to believe that this was a state-sponsored hacking.

iPhones have been known to have strong encryption, but are not invulnerable. The most high-profile case relating to this is the 2016 case between the FBI and Apple when the bureau asked the phone maker to unlock a phone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. The company resisted, but the FBI proceeded to successfully break into the iPhone in question by themselves.

"It's utterly alarming that police begins to hack mobile devices of HKers, just like China hacking iPhones and Android devices to target Uyghurs," Wong tweeted.

He called the "warrantless search" a "blunt violation of the freedom and privacy of communication," and urged concerned parties to "strengthen your cybersecurity." 

Below is the full tweet thread:

1/ Arrested on August 30, my phone was seized by #hkpolice. The phone can only be unlocked with passwords. Before court resumed yesterday, I have NEVER provided any passwords to #police, nor received any notice nor warrant for a search of my mobile device. — Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 (@joshuawongcf) December 19, 2019


Wong came into the public eye during a different round of Hong Kong protests back in 2014. The 2019 protests were set off by a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed Beijing to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China for trial. – Rappler.com

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.