In January, Hong Kong witnessed the closure of another independent media outlet, and the government requested information from two unions. Several national security cases faced adjournments, and the city’s leader said that more national security crimes will be outlawed. HKFP continues its monthly roundup of developments as the new year begins.
Citizen News folds
On the second day of 2022, Hong Kong saw the closure of another independent media outlet – Citizen News. It became the third newsroom to shut down within six months. The announcement, citing “the worsening of media environment,” was made following the newsroom raid and arrests of top editors at the now-defunct Stand News.
Meanwhile, following the prosecution of two ex-Stand News chief editors under the colonial-era sedition law, barrister and former lawmaker Margaret Ng – who was among those arrested – asked the High Court to bar the police from reading and using legally privileged materials seized during her arrest.
Hong Kong Alliance
Chow Hang-tung, barrister and former vice-chair of the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, was sentenced to 15 months in jail in the first week of January for inciting others to take part in last year’s banned vigil in commemoration of the Tiananmen crackdown.
The 37-year-old is currently facing two national security charges after she was accused of inciting subversion and refusing a national security police data request. The court will discuss the possibility of a government body representing the Alliance during the upcoming national security law trial.
A year has passed since over 50 pro-democracy figures were arrested under the national security law after they took part in a primary election for the then-postponed Legislative Council election.
To date, 47 of them have been prosecuted and over 30 have been remanded in custody since February last year. Owen Chow saw his bail revoked after a magistrate ruled that he had breached bail terms by publishing speech that could be seen as endangering national security.
The city also saw another marathon hearing after 23 of the 47 charged spent close to 12 hours in court with some reportedly given only biscuits for dinner.
Music from ten Cantopop groups and singers were banned from the airwaves, local media reported, as RTHK banished artists including Denise Ho, Charmaine Fong, Tat Ming Pair and Dear Jane.
Hong Kong 12
Kok Tsz-lun, one of the 12 Hong Kong democracy activists who was detained in mainland China, will plead guilty to rioting. The 19-year-old was one of 12 Hongkongers caught by Chinese marine police in August 2020 when fleeing Hong Kong for Taiwan by boat. A mainland Chinese court sentenced Kok and nine others to between seven months and three years in jail.
Meanwhile, another one of the 12, Andy Li, will spend at least five more months in custody pending sentencing, after the case was adjourned. Proceedings were postponed to wait for their co-defendant – pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai – to be committed to the High Court for trial over an alleged conspiracy to call for sanctions against Hong Kong and China.
Withdrawal of legal challenge
Tong Ying-kit, the first person convicted under the national security law, for inciting secession and committing terrorist acts, withdrew his appeal against his conviction and nine-year sentence.
Also, three former leaders of the now-defunct Student Politicism charged under the Beijing-imposed national security law will spend another month in custody, after their case was adjourned allow more time for the defence to go through documents presented by the prosecution.
Tiananmen tribute covered up
Workers at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) covered up a segment of a bridge dedicated to the Tiananmen dead on Saturday morning, weeks after the school’s removal of a statue commemorating the deadly crackdown attracted international condemnation. HKU claimed the move was a “maintenance” operation.
The 33-year-old dedication to the 1989 crackdown read: “Souls of martyrs shall forever linger despite the brutal massacre; Spark of democracy shall forever glow for the demise of evils.”
During the first month of 2022, two groups in Hong Kong faced probes from the Registry of Trade Unions.
The Hong Kong White Collar (Administration and Clerical) Connect Union received a mailed inquiry from the Registry of Trade Unions on December 28 last year, and defended its actions and comments made in opposition to the national security law in its reply in January.
The city’s largest journalists’ group, Hong Kong Journalists Association, was also asked by the registry to provide answers how certain events, including movie screenings and book launches. they held were relevant to their objectives.
More national security offences
The city’s first “patriots-only” legislature convened for the first time in January, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam saying that Hong Kong will outlaw a host of new national security crimes in addition to those listed in the national security legislation.
Meanwhile, Checkley Sin, who became the first person to announce his intention to run in Hong Kong’s small-circle chief executive election, said that he would finish national security legislation for Article 23 under the Basic Law within one year.
And as the city heads into Lunar New Year amid the fifth wave of Covid-19 infections, the government said that discussion of the city’s Covid strategy would not violate the national security law.