Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Tam Tak-chi has asked a court to drop sedition charges brought against him under a colonial-era law because they are against the Basic Law, according to a former legislator who visited Tam in custody.

Ray Chan spoke to reporters outside the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre on Tuesday morning, after visiting Tam – nicknamed “Fast Beat” – who has been detained for 43 days. The People Power chairman said Tam’s lawyers had submitted an application to the court for the hearing to be terminated.

Tam Tak-chi
Tam Tak-chi. File photo: Etan Liam, via Flickr.

Chan argued that the sedition charges violate Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which grants citizens freedom of speech, publication and expression. The democrat said the indictment also breached international human rights covenants adopted by the United Nations and provided for in the Basic Law.

“I hope the court can deliver justice to Fast Beat and tell Hong Kong society whether chanting slogans online or on the street, publishing words, slogans and comments, would constitute the offence of sedition and bear criminal liabilities or even prison,” Chan said.

Ray Chan
Ray Chan speaks to reporters outside the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre on October 20, 2020. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Hong Kong police arrested Tam on September 6, hours before a demonstration against the Beijing-imposed national security law. During a hearing two days later, prosecutors cited videos from Tam’s social media accounts and said the 47-year-old had uttered popular protest slogans “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”, “Five demands, not one less” and “Disband the police force.”

Police said the slogans were intended to “incite hatred, contempt against the government and cause discontent and dissatisfaction among the Hong Kong people.” Tam, who is People Power vice-chairman, faces a separate count of disorderly conduct in a public place and was denied bail.

September 15 china extradition
A placard said “Five demands, not one less.” Photo: May James/HKFP.

Chan accused the police of using an “evil law” from the colonial era to create a deterrent effect against those who took part in Hong Kong’s year-long pro-democracy protests. The sedition charges are broadly defined in the Crimes Ordinance, which was last amended in 1972 when the city was still under British colonial rule. It outlaws treason, incitement to mutiny and disaffection and other offences against the British Crown.

“It should not be used to prosecute anyone,” he said.

The ex-lawmaker estimated the court would review Tam’s application next month, and said he hoped he could be freed as soon as possible. Tam is set to remain in custody until he appears in court again on November 17.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.