A pastor accused of sedition over comments he made as a spectator in court and on social media has said there were flaws in Hong Kong’s rule of law like “a hole in a dam,” during a hearing on Thursday.
Garry Pang, 59, along with Chiu Mei-ying, 67, is accused of “uttering seditious words” in court in January. Pang is also charged with “doing an act or acts with seditious intention” for publishing YouTube videos which mainly discussed protest-related cases.
Magistrate Cheng Lim-chi at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts ruled on Wednesday the pair had a case to answer and Pang, who frequently attended court hearings as a spectator, opted to testify on Thursday.
The pastor repeatedly said his criticism of judges and the legal system was aimed at improving the city’s judiciary and he had no seditious intention. On his YouTube channel, Pang made remarks such as “laws have been used as a tool to quash dissent,” and said the legal system had been “weaponised.”
Pang said the videos used as evidence against him “did not show that [he] had seditious intent,” but demonstrated that the charges against him were “nonsensical, unlawful and unreasonable.”
“What I see right now is a dam with a hole, and a good citizen is obliged to point that out,” he said in reference to Hong Kong’s rule of law and legal system.
“What’s going on in the court right now is not only a legal battle over sedition, it is also a battle to defend human rights and freedoms, a battle of safeguarding conscience,” Pang said from the stand.
If a desire to improve Hong Kong’s systems and governance were to result in a conviction for sedition, “Hong Kong’s rule of law will crumble.”
Pang said he was “baffled” by the charges against him and added that “Hong Kong has entered an era of sedition” – a reference to the number of people being prosecuted under the colonial-era law.
The sedition legislation was unused for over half a century until its revival in the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and unrest.
Along with the Beijing-imposed national security law, it is increasingly used against purported security threats, although some critics see it as a deterrent to free speech and to legitimate criticism of the administration.
Admitted applauding in court
Pang admitted applauding during a sentencing hearing for pro-democracy activist Chow Hang-tung in January, but denied ever making any remarks that were seditious or that incited hatred against the judiciary or the government.
The magistrate, however, interrupted him and reminded him that what he said in court could be used against him. The prosecution confirmed that it would not charge Pang with contempt of court despite his admission of applauding.
Cheng told Pang the charge against him was “uttering seditious words.” In one video, for example, Pang criticised a judge for evicting people wearing yellow masks, a symbol of the protest movement, from the courtroom.
The pastor said he understood the charges he faced but insisted his remarks were never seditious and asked the court to acquit him.
His co-defendant Chiu, who has been granted bail, will not testify. Pang has been remanded for more than four months. The hearing was continuing on Thursday afternoon.