The sedition trial of Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and radio host “Fast Beat” Tam Tak-chi has been adjourned until October.
District Court judge Stanley Chan’s decision to adjourn proceedings on Friday – the third day of 48-year-old Tam’s trial – means that the activist will have spent more than a year detained on remand by the time the hearing resumes on October 18.
On that date, expert prosecution expert witness, historian Lau Chi-pang of Lingnan University, is expected to testify. Lau also acted as an expert witness in the city’s first national security trial – which saw Tong Ying-kit jailed for nine years on Friday – at which the meaning of a controversial protest slogan was a key argument.
Judge Chan said court scheduling issues were behind the need for a lengthy adjournment, as a slot had to be found for the amount of time the prosecution and defence said they would need to cross examine Lau.
Tam, who was denied bail, was arrested in September under the city’s sedition laws, which date back decades and were last amended in 1972 when the city was under British colonial rule which ended in 1997.
The activist faces 14 charges, including “uttering seditious words,” disorderly conduct in a public place, conspiracy to utter seditious words, holding or convening an unauthorised assembly, incitement to knowingly take part in an unauthorised assembly, and refusing to obey an order given by an authorised officer.
The prosecution summoned two witnesses on Friday, including a woman who Tam shouted at from a street booth in Ngau Tau Kok in March last year. The prosecutor also read out a written testimony from a police officer.
In a video submitted as evidence to the court, the woman was seen standing near Tam’s street booth, and telling Tam to “go ‘liberate’ at your home,” in response to which Tam and some of his supporters shouted profanities at the woman and told her to “go back to mainland China.”
Slogans and insults
The prosecution cited eight occasions from January to July last year where Tam had allegedly committed the offences. Some of the allegedly “seditious words” cited by the prosecution were slogans and insults commonly used during the anti-extradition bill protests and unrest in 2019.
The prosecution counted that Tam said the controversial “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” slogan 171 times, “black cops, may your whole family die” 102 times, “damned black cops” 20 times, and “overthrow the communist party” 11 times.
The “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” slogan was capable of inciting others to commit secession, three hand-picked national security law judges ruled in the city’s first national security law trial on Tuesday.
Police also took away leaflets and posters as evidence. Some leaflets were said to be containing political messages, which the prosecution said was smearing the Hong Kong government by calling it a “Hong Kong communist tyranny.”
The leaflets were also said to contain messages that “incite hate against the Chinese Communist Party and the SAR government, such as “the national security law is actually the party security law, protecting the party’s safety, but stepping on human rights and killing freedom, stifling democracy, despising the rule of law, slaughtering Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong’s sedition laws – which fall under the Crimes Ordinance – are different to the Beijing-imposed national security law. The sedition legislation outlaws treason, incitement to mutiny and disaffection and other offences against the British Crown.