In a first under Hong Kong’s national security law, the Department of Justice is to request that a designated judge should adjudicate pro-democracy activist Tam Tak-chi’s bail application. Tam was arrested for alleged “sedition”, a colonial offence that predates the national security law, after uttering protest slogans.
Chief District Judge Ko King-sau was originally listed to hear the People Power activist’s plea on Tuesday afternoon. But the justice department filed a request for a national security law-designated judge to hear the case. It is despite that fact that the charges do not come under the new, Beijing-imposed legislation.
According to a post by Tam’s Facebook administrator, the law firm representing Tam received the request last Friday. Judge Ko said in court on Tuesday that he could not yet decide whether a national security law designated judge should handle the case and the hearing will continue on December 2.
At an earlier hearing, the prosecutor cited footage of Tam uttering popular protest slogans such as “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” and “Five demands, not one less” to support the six counts of sedition. The government has said that the former phrase was illegal.
Security law police arrested Tam on September 6, hours before a scheduled rally against the security law. He has been held in custody since then.
Article 44 of the national security law, imposed by Beijing in June, states that the chief executive has the power to appoint judges to handle national security cases. It also states that the city’s leader may consult the chief justice before selecting the judges from a pool of magistrates and local judges.