A Hong Kong court has denied bail to veteran pro-democracy activist Koo Sze-yiu, who is facing charges of attempting to commit a seditious act. Koo was arrested by national security police early on Friday morning ahead of a planned demonstration against the Winter Olympics.

The 75-year-old appeared at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Saturday. He will remain in custody until his trial in April.

Koo Sze-yiu. File photo: League of Social Democrats, via Facebook video screenshot.

Acting chief magistrate and designated national security judge Peter Law cited Koo’s record of participating in political demonstrations. After his charge was read out, Koo, who represented himself, said “human rights is above the regime” and that he did not plead guilty.

Prosecutors added that Koo had brought contempt upon and incited betrayal against the Hong Kong and central governments, Ming Pao reported.

Planned demonstration

Koo was arrested by national security police at his home at around 6 a.m. on Friday, according to local media. Reports also said that four other people, among them activist Lui Yuk-lin and former Democratic Party member Virginia Fung, were brought to a police station to assist with the investigation.

Koo had earlier informed the media that he was planning to demonstrate outside Beijing’s Liaison Office in the city that morning to protest China’s Winter Olympics and call attention to political activists behind bars.

West Kowloon Law Courts Building. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The government released a statement on Saturday morning confirming that a 75-year-old man had been charged with “attempting to do or making any preparation to do an act or acts with seditious intention” under a colonial-era law.

In court, prosecutors said police found a one-metre long coffin and a white flag with “seditious language,” including “democracy and human rights are above the Winter Olympics,” “down with the Chinese Communist Party” and “end one-party rule,” at his residence. Two mobile phones were also seized.

Prosecutors applied to postpone the case to allow police more time to gather evidence. Further arrests were not ruled out.

‘Extremely serious’ allegations

A veteran pro-democracy activist, Koo has been jailed 11 times, most recently last April for taking part in an unauthorised assembly and violating the anti-mask law during the anti-extradition protests in 2019.

Koo Sze-yiu. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Before that, he completed a four-month prison term for desecrating the Chinese national flag outside a courthouse in July 2020, where media tycoon Jimmy Lai and other pro-democracy figures were on trial over an unauthorised assembly.

During the hearing on Saturday, acting chief magistrate Law said Koo’s allegations were “extremely serious.” He said that he did not believe Koo would not engage in activity that endangers national security again.

The opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics was held on Friday night amid diplomatic boycotts over China’s human rights’ record from western nations, including the US, the UK and Canada.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.