Elderly court goer Chiu Mei-ying continued to clap her hands during a hearing in January, even after the magistrate had warned people sitting in the public gallery not to do so, a police officer told the court as the sedition trial against Chiu entered its third day.
Defendants Garry Pang, a 59-year-old pastor, and Chiu, 67, appeared in front of Magistrate Cheng Lim-chi at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Tuesday. Both stand accused of “uttering seditious words” in court in January, while Pang faces another charge of committing “acts with seditious intention” for operating a YouTube channel that mainly published videos about court cases related to the 2019 protests.
A police officer who was responsible for transcribing the audio recording of a court hearing attended by Pang and Chiu on January 4, when pro-democracy activist Chow Hang-tung was convicted and sentenced to a 15-month jail term over a banned Tiananmen vigil last year, continued his testimony.
After saying the previous day that he had wrongly identified Pang as wearing a long-sleeved black top in the police investigation report, the officer, surnamed Cheng, said that security camera footage appeared to show Pang carrying an object that resembled a black windbreaker. Screenshots of videos taken by Pang that day showed him dressed in a short-sleeved shirt.
Cheung on Tuesday said it was possible that Pang had also worn the windbreaker on January 4, when the alleged court disturbance happened.
According to an audio recording of Chow’s mitigation speech played in court, the activist’s words were followed by two rounds of applause, and a male voice – allegedly Pang’s – that shouted “you have lost your conscience” in Cantonese.
Cheung on Tuesday told the court he was able to identify Pang’s voice after reviewing some of the pastor’s YouTube videos so he was able to match his voice with the audio recording.
Court guard called as witness
The prosecution also called upon its second witness, a security guard at the West Kowloon Law Courts Building. The guard, surnamed Choi, was on duty on January 4 and stationed at Court 3, where Chow was handed her guilty verdict.
When asked by the prosecutor to describe the situation that day, Choi said there were around 100 people, including journalists, in the public gallery. During the hearing, some applauded and chanted. He said he recalled around 40 to 50 people who clapped their hands. Amy Chan, the magistrate presiding over Chow’s case, then warned people not to do that.
Choi also told the court he had identified Pang as being among those who disrupted the proceedings. “After the magistrate gave a warning for the second time, [the defendant] suddenly pounded the table and said ‘I was one of those people who clapped my hands.’ He then turned around and told people behind him ‘What’s so scary about admitting you applauded? Let [the police] take down your information and see how many they can charge’,” Choi said Pang had said.
The prosecutor asked Choi if he had seen Pang clapping his hands. Choi said he had not noticed, only that he had seen Pang pounding the table. Choi also said he had not seen Chiu do anything. He said he had seen three men and a woman being taken away from the court room.
Pang, who opted to defend himself, then cross-examined Choi and said Choi was wrong to allege that Pang told people to let authorities take their information. Pang said he had not said that and the audio recording was proof.
Pang also said Choi got the colour of his clothing and face mask wrong, just like Cheung had. Choi later admitted he made a mistake in saying that Pang wore a black surgical mask, when it was “something like white in colour.”
Footage from a security camera showing the area outside of Court 3 was also played in court. According to the video, Chiu’s lawyer Colman Li suggested that Choi could not be certain that three men and one woman suspected of disrupting the hearing were led away because the footage showed more than four people leaving the room.
Choi said people were free to leave the court room during the proceedings. The prosecutor said the security camera did not capture the doors, and suggested it was possible that people stayed near the door and did not walk into the area the camera was filming.
Court police witness
A senior police constable who was stationed at the West Kowloon Law Courts Building that day also testified on Tuesday. Lau Siu-man gave a similar description to the amount of people in the public gallery as Choi, but testified that he saw defendant Chiu clapping her hands about three times after the magistrate’s first warning.
As instructed by the prosecutor, Lau read out parts of the transcript of the court audio, allegedly said by Chiu, including: “I also clapped my hands”, “[h]ow is this a court room?” and “[t]here is no [rule of] law.”
Lau said that although he was standing about seven metres away from Chiu, he could confirm it was Chiu speaking because “her mask moved” and he recognised her voice from speaking to her outside the court room later.
Lau also told the court he saw Pang – dressed in a long-sleeved black top, black pants, black-framed eyeglasses and a black face mask – tell other people to stand up if they had clapped and let authorities take down their information. Lau said he was the one who led Pang outside the court room and recorded his personal details.
Pang, during cross-examination, also accused Lau of mistakenly identifying his clothing and face mask like other witnesses. Despite being shown pictures of Pang wearing a light-coloured mask, Lau insisted the one he saw Pang wearing inside the court room was black and said he did not know if Pang had changed it while walking out.
Pang then responded by saying: “I have a habit – I wear a black mask when I was filming videos, but I wear a white mask when I enter a court room.” Lau said he disagreed and insisted his witness statement was correct and made according to what he saw.
The trial, which is scheduled to last for seven days, will continue on Wednesday, when Lau will be cross-examined by Chiu’s lawyers.