A Hong Kong court has adjourned till July the case of a martial arts coach accused of breaching the colonial-era sedition law, while his assistant was denied bail for a second time on national security grounds even though she does not face such a charge.

West Kowloon Law Courts Building. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Coach Denis Wong, 59, and his assistant Iry Cheung were both set to appear before Principal Magistrate Peter Law on Thursday, but Wong was absent as he had tested positive for Covid-19. Cheung sat in the dock alone.

The pair have been detained since their arrest on March 20. Wong stands accused of inciting hatred against the Hong Kong government and violence through social media posts about his martial arts class. He is also accused of possessing offensive weapons including three swords, three machetes and an axe, as well as owning two crossbows without a licence.

His 62-year-old assistant is charged with possessing offensive weapons including three machetes and an axe, and owning five crossbows without a licence.

Prosecutors on Thursday asked for an eight-week adjournment to give time for police to finish examining the arrows that were seized, and allow forensics officers to unlock the mobile phones related to the case. They said police also needed time to seek legal advice.

West Kowloon Law Courts Building. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Wong’s lawyer Kennex Chan and Cheung’s representative Yvonne Leung did not object to the adjournment. The magistrate fixed the next court date for July 12.

Bail denied

Cheung again applied for bail but Law said he did not have sufficient grounds for believing that she would not continue to engage in acts endangering national security if it was granted. Such a reason for refusing bail is often cited in national security or sedition cases, but Cheung has not been charged under either of the laws.

Sedition is an offence under the Crimes Ordinance, last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still under British colonial rule. It is different from the sweeping Beijing-imposed security legislation enacted on June 30, 2020, which targets secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts.

Bail applications in national security cases have to go through a stricter assessment. Judges consider not only the defendant’s risk of absconding or obstructing justice, but also whether there are sufficient grounds for believing they “will not continue to commit acts endangering national security.”

The same threshold now often also applies to defendants facing sedition charges, after the Court of Final Appeal ruled last December that sedition also amounts to acts endangering national security.

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Kelly Ho

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.