Newly unredacted material provided by the prosecution in the national security case against former standing committee members of the city’s Tiananmen vigil organiser was sufficient for a fair trial, a magistrate has ruled. The defence, however, argued that the materials remained “99 per cent” redacted.
Chow Hang-tung, former vice-chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, and two of its ex-standing committee members, Tang Ngok-kwan and Tsui Hon-kwong, stand accused of not complying with a national security police request to submit information. The notice was issued last August and the trio were arrested and prosecuted a month later.
The Beijing-imposed national security law stipulates that the commissioner of police, upon the approval from the security chief, has the power to serve a notice to a “foreign agent” requesting information, including activities and finances.
The trio appeared in front of Principal Magistrate Peter Law on Monday as the trial continued.
Two other defendants in the case, Simon Leung and Chan To-wai, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to three months in prison.
Prior to the trial, the magistrate ruled that the prosecution had to hand over materials – including search warrants and investigation reports – to the defence, but with some details redacted. The decision came after the defence demanded that the prosecution disclose which foreign organisations or countries the Alliance was allegedly working for.
The prosecution said at the time that disclosing such information would “harm public interest,” and applied for Public Interest Immunity (PII) which would allow it to not reveal such information.
After the prosecution called their first witness last week, now-Acting Senior Superintendent Hung Ngan of the national security police, to testify, the defence said it would be difficult for them to conduct cross examinations with such “heavily redacted” materials.
Newly disclosed materials
Following two closed-door hearings between the magistrate and the prosecution, the prosecution released some more unredacted materials to the defence.
However, Chow, representing herself in court on Monday, said that the defence had received content that was “99 per cent” redacted.
“Basically we were given many pages of black ink,” said Chow, while holding up a document covered in patches of black.
Despite the defence’s protests, the magistrate ruled that the information disclosed was “sufficient for fair trial.”
The prosecution called Hung to the stand again following Law’s decision, who gave a slightly more detailed description of the Alliance’s relationship with five foreign organisations and two individuals mentioned in a police investigation report.
Without giving any names of the other organisations, Hung said that the Alliance either received from or gave money to the groups and an individual.
The prosecution, led by Acting Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (Special Duties) Anthony Chau, said that the identities of the foreign organisations could not be revealed, and that revelation of PII-protected materials “will jeopardise the ongoing investigation.”
Hung said there were also some transactions between the groups. The amounts of those transactions ranged from “hundreds of thousands” to “several millions.” Hung said that the Alliance also either held or participated in events with some of the groups.
The second individual mentioned in the report, “Person 2,” was said to be a common director of the Alliance and “Organisation 2,”one of the five groups.
Following the prosecution’s examination, senior counsel Philip Dykes, representing Tsui, and Chow, cross-examined the witness.
Hung, answering Chow’s questions, said that he began investigating the Alliance at the beginning of last year. He said that the police had issued search warrants and production orders for materials to 10 banks, the Manulife provident fund company, and also the Alliance’s auditors, requesting financial information of the Alliance.
Chow asked Hung to confirm whether the amount of money given by “Organisation 4,” which the Alliance was said to be acting as an agent for, was HK$20,000, as the witness previously described the amount as “tens of thousands of Hong Kong dollars.”
According to Hung, “Organisation 4” was an “international political organisation to promote democratisation in China,” and that the group’s guiding principles included “to end one party ruling, and to rebuild a democratic China.”
The prosecutor objected to Chow’s question and said that the amount could not be disclosed. Chau said that the PII covered not only the documents, but also the information mentioned in court. Chow argued that the PII only covered materials during the discovery stage, and “does not protect the witness from answering the question.”
Barrister Esmond Wong, representing Tang, said at that juncture, either the prosecution had to consider whether they should continue with the proceedings, or the defence might apply for a permanent stay, as there would be “no chance to obtain any fair trial.”
Chau replied saying that the prosecution was also facing difficulties arising from the PII, as they could only cite information that was allowed to be disclosed. Thus, the prosecution and the defence were “on equal footing,” Chau said.
The magistrate responded to Chau, saying that it was the prosecution who had applied for a PII.
“The limitation is a consequence of your own application, this is your choice,” said Law.
The magistrate then ruled that Hung had to answer Chow’s question, to which the witness confirmed that the Alliance received HK$20,000 from “Organisation 4.”
Following Hung’s answer, Law adjourned the trial to October 26.