The trial of a veteran Hong Kong activist charged under the colonial-era sedition law over a protest that was planned against the Beijing Winter Olympics began on Monday, after an adjournment of almost six hours.

Koo Sze-yiu appeared in front of Principal Magistrate Peter Law, one of the city’s handpicked national security judges, at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Monday. The veteran activist, who was 75 years old when he was arrested in February this year, stands accused of “attempting to do or making any preparation to do an act or acts with seditious intention.”

Koo Sze-yiu outside the West Kowloon Magistrates Court. Photo: League of Social Democrats, via Facebook video screenshot.

The activist – who has been diagnosed with stage four cancer – was arrested by police from the National Security Department on February 4, hours before a planned protest against the Winter Olympics. Koo was arrested under the national security law over alleged incitement to subversion, and was later charged under the colonial-era sedition law.

The court heard that police took a coffin away from Koo’s Cheung Sha Wan home, which had several slogans written on it, including “beat the Communist Party,” “end one-party rule,” “democracy and human rights above Winter Olympics,” and “getting rich just by eating shit under the national security law.”

The prosecution said that a flag with the words “murderous regime stinks for thousands of years” was taken away as evidence during Koo’s early morning arrest.

The prosecution, led by Acting Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (Special Duties) Anthony Chau, also read out the testimonies of two prosecution witnesses in court.

The first was from the police officer who arrested Koo, which included details such as the time and date of Koo’s arrest, and when the police recorded the activist’s statements.

The second testimony was from former district councillor Foo Wai-lok. Foo was a member of multiple pro-democracy parties, including the Democratic Party and the League of Social Democrats (LSD).

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

Foo, who claimed to be retired, said he was asked by Koo on January 27 to create a press invitation after the activist told him about plans to protest on February 4, the court heard.

The former district councillor then showed a copy of the invitation to Koo on January 30, and emailed it to media outlets including Sing Tao, Commercial Radio, RTHK, Ming Pao, Epoch Times and Wen Wei Po between February 2 and 3.

According to the testimony, Foo was asked about the meaning of phrases including “ending one-party rule,” and “murderous regime stinks for thousands of years,” to which the former district councillor said the former meant to “end the rule of the Communist Party,” and the latter meant “to criticise the party.”

Barrister Chris Ng, who was representing Koo, said that Foo’s responses did not represent the defendant’s interpretation of those phrases.

After hearing the two testimonies, the session was adjourned to Tuesday afternoon as the court was scheduled to view around two hours’ worth of footage. The defence and prosecution also said they would need one month to prepare written statements after the prosecution’s case had ended.

Acting Chief Magistrate Peter Law. Photo: Judiciary.

The sedition law, which falls under the Crimes Ordinance, is different from the Beijing-imposed national security law.

The legislation, last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still under British colonial rule,  criminalises incitement to violence, disaffection and other offences against the administration.

‘Stay healthy’

Koo’s court session on Monday was adjourned for close to six hours soon after it began at 9:30 a.m., as Law was scheduled to deal with another national security case on Monday morning.

The veteran activist was wearing a yellow t-shirt and green face mask. Some people in the public gallery stood up and shouted “Ah Koo take care” and “stay healthy” as Koo stepped into the dock.

Members of the LSD, including Chan Po-ying, Tsang Kin-shing, and Raphael Wong, who was recently released from prison, also attended the court session.

The veteran activist raised his hand as he left the dock after the afternoon session ended.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.