A 34-year-old programmer accused of publishing seditious social media posts has been remanded in custody while he awaits his next court appearance in six weeks’ time.

He was one of two men arrested by police from the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force on Monday.

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

Luk Ting-fung, who local media reported was a technician at the Inland Revenue Department, appeared before Principal Magistrate Peter Law at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Wednesday. He was charged with one count of “doing an act or acts with seditious intention” under the colonial-era sedition law.

Luk allegedly published and displayed statements on popular online forum LIHKG between January 2020 and August 2022 that were said “to bring into hatred or contempt” against the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese authorities; to excite others “to attempt to procure the alteration” of matters in Hong Kong; “to bring into hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against the administration of justice;” “to raise discontent or disaffection” among Hongkongers; “to incite persons to violence;” and “to counsel disobedience to law.”

Forum LIHKG. Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

Although Luk was not charged under the national security law, Law said that “the allegation was a serious one.”

Law noted that the defendant did not have a legal representation, so he adjourned the session for an hour to allow Luk to seek help from the Duty Lawyer Scheme, a public legal service. He was then assigned a duty lawyer.

The prosecution meanwhile said it was not ready to take a plea and asked for a six-week adjournment, saying police needed more time to process and inspect the electronic devices seized. Law approved the adjournment.

Luk will remain in custody until his next court appearance on September 13.

When the 34-year-old was brought into the dock, he could be seen scanning the public stand, seemingly looking for his mother, who waved at him. Luk is autistic, his mother later told HKFP. He has been in police detention since Monday, when he was apprehended.

Principal Magistrate Peter Law. Photo: Judiciary.

Sedition is not covered by the Beijing-imposed national security law, which targets secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, and mandates up to life imprisonment. Those convicted under the sedition law, which was last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still a British colony, face a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

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Almond Li

Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.