The sedition trial against defunct independent outlet Stand News will begin on October 31 and is scheduled to last for 20 days.
Stand News’ former editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen and former acting chief editor Patrick Lam appeared at the District Court in front of Judge Kwok Wai-kin on Thursday.
The pair, along with Stand News’ parent company Best Pencil (Hong Kong) Limited, have been accused of conspiring to publish “seditious publications” under the colonial-era sedition law. The company did not sent any representative to attend the court session on Thursday.
Kwok granted the prosecution’s application to go ahead with the trial without a representative for the company. The prosecution said that the police had informed the company of the court date by delivering notices to its address in Kwun Tong, as well as the address of a company director.
The prosecution, led by Laura Ng, said that Chung was the founder and one of the shareholders of a company that owned Best Pencil, and that both Chung and Lam had “leading and controlling roles” as the editor-in-chief and acting chief editor.
According to section 79A of the District Court Ordinance, in cases where the accused is a corporation, the court has to “order a plea of not guilty” and the trial must proceed if the corporation does not have a representative or fails to enter a plea.
Both Chung and Lam’s lawyers said in court that the pair planned to plead not guilty. The prosecution said that the trial would take around 20 working days.
Ng also said that the prosecution would present at least 22 witnesses and 17 articles, among them three videos, during the trial.
Kwok set the trial to begin in the end of October this year. Neither Chung nor Lam applied for bail. The pair has been remanded in custody since late December last year.
The anti-sedition legislation, which was last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still under British colonial rule, falls under the city’s Crimes Ordinance. It is separate from the Beijing-imposed national security law, and outlaws incitement to violence, disaffection and other offences against the authorities.
Non-profit online news outlet Stand News ceased operations last December after its newsroom was raided by more than 200 national security police officers. Seven people connected to the publication – including Chung and Lam – were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish seditious publications.