A Hong Kong court has ordered two men remanded in custody pending trial over “seditious” posts on popular online forum LIHKG and Instagram respectively. They were among five people arrested by national security police a week before the city marks 25 years since its handover from Britain to China.

LIHKG App. Photo: Apple Appstore screenshot.

Principal Magistrate Peter Law on Friday refused to grant bail to IT worker Chan Wai-lun at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts, after he was apprehended a day earlier under the colonial-era sedition law.

The 30-year-old is accused of publishing or continuing to display statements on local discussion forum LIHKG – between July 1, 2021 and June 23 this year – with the intention of inciting hatred or contempt against the Central Government and the Hong Kong government.

He was also said to have acted with seditious intention by inciting people to violence and advising disobedience to the law. His lawyer Yvonne Leung applied for bail, but his application was rejected after the principal magistrate ruled that he may continue to engage in acts endangering national security if bail is granted.

national security customs and excise
Photo: GovHK.
💡Under court reporting restrictions on bail proceedings, written and broadcast reports are limited to only include the result of a bail application, the name of the person applying for bail and their representation, and the offence concerned.

In Hong Kong, sedition is outlawed under the Crimes Ordinance which was last amended in the 1970s, when the city was under British colonial rule. It is not part of the Beijing-imposed national security law that came into force on June 30, 2020, which targets secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts.

But the stricter bail threshold stipulated in the security legislation may be applied on defendants in sedition cases, where local courts are required to decide whether there are sufficient grounds for believing that the suspect would not continue to commit acts endangering national security.

Separately, 28-year-old Chan Kwun-yuk was also remanded in custody pending trial under the sedition law. The unemployed defendant allegedly shared photos and posters on Instagram between January 17, 2021 and June 13 this year, with the intention of exciting disaffection against the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.

Instagram icon stock photo
Instagram. File photo: Yuri Samoilov, via Flickr.

Similar to the IT worker, Chan Kwun-yuk was said to have intended to incite violence and counsel disobedience to the law with his social media posts.

Chan was represented by a duty lawyer and the court refused to grant him bail on the grounds that the national security bail threshold could not be satisfied.

The prosecution asked the court to adjourn both cases to allow the police to conduct further investigations, including inspecting electronic devices seized to see if there were “any other offences.”

Law will hear both cases again on August 4, while Chan Kwun-yuk will appear in court next Thursday to review his bail status.

On Thursday the police National Security Department also announced it had made three new arrests linked to a previous case involving a martial arts coach accused of seditious acts and possessing swords, machetes, crossbows and other weapons without a licence.

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Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.