The national security case against the defunct group behind Hong Kong’s Tiananmen vigils and two of its leaders has been transferred to the city’s Court of First Instance more than a year after the defendants were charged.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, and three of its former leaders, Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung, stand accused under the Beijing-imposed national security law of alleged incitement to subversion.
Lee, Ho and Chow appeared in front of Principal Magistrate Peter Law, one of the city’s handpicked national security judges, at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Wednesday.
Supporters greeted Lee and Chow when they entered the dock, chanting their names and waving at the duo. Chow replied by joking about the turnout, saying: “So many people came, but it is so boring.”
The Alliance, which disbanded in September following a members’ vote, was represented by the Official Receiver, in accordance with the Companies (Winding Up and Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance, after the group was struck off the Companies Registry after it dissolved.
On Wednesday, Law confirmed that Lee and Ho had entered not guilty pleas, while he said the Alliance entered a “silent” plea, which would be treated as a non-guilty plea. Law then moved the case to the High Court, where the maximum penalty for incitement to subversion is 10 years imprisonment.
The case against Chow was moved to the Court of First Instance last week, after Acting Principal Magistrate Veronica Heung ruled in the preliminary inquiry that the prosecution had sufficient evidence against Chow.
Reporting restrictions on the committal proceedings were lifted after High Court Judge Alex Lee ruled in favour of Chow’s challenge against Law’s decision to reject her application to waive such restrictions.
The three defendants were arrested and charged last September. Ho was the only one among them to be granted bail. The ex-lawmaker was allowed to leave custody last month. Law allowed Ho to extend his bail, while Lee and Chow remained in remand.
The Alliance, founded in 1989, organised Hong Kong’s annual vigils commemorating victims of the Tiananmen crackdown, where it is estimated that hundreds, if not thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing, ending months of student-led demonstrations.
Additional reporting: Almond Li