Two frequent Hong Kong court goers accused of sedition over an alleged court disturbance made their closing statements on Friday, with one claiming they had spoken “recklessly” and not with seditious intent.

Garry Pang, a 59-year-old pastor, and Chiu Mei-ying, 67, stand accused of uttering seditious words in court in January. Pang faces another charge of “doing an act or acts with seditious intention” for publishing YouTube videos which mainly discussed protest-related cases. They appeared in front of Magistrate Cheng Lim-chi at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Friday.

Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The charges stem from January 4, 2022, when the pair attended a court hearing for pro-democracy activist Chow Hang-tung, who was convicted and sentenced to 15 months in jail over a banned Tiananmen vigil last year.

During that hearing, the public gallery erupted in applause after Chow made a speech, with the magistrate ordering police officers to note the identities of those who clapped, saying that the court was “not a stage for performance.”

Closing submissions

The prosecution argued that it only needed to prove the defendants knew what they were saying was seditious and said it regardless. Prosecutor Betty Fu said that Pang should have been aware of the consequences of his behaviour. Whether or not other people were influenced did not matter, Fu said.

But Jeffrey Tam, who represented Chiu, disagreed. He argued that the prosecution had the responsibility to prove that not only did the defendants know the words they were uttering were seditious, but that they intended to have an effect, such as causing hatred against the judiciary.

‘Reckless speech’

According to previous hearings, Chiu was accused saying things such as “[h]ow is this a court room?” and “[t]here is no [rule of] law.” According to her lawyer, Chiu was actually leaving the court room as she allegedly said those words, adding that she did not resist police officers who escorted her out and took down her personal information.

Defendant Chiu Mei-ying. File photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

What Chiu allegedly said appeared to be “reckless speech,” Tam said, as she was upset with the court at that moment. The prosecution could not prove that Chiu meant to incite others to break any laws, Tam added.

‘Terrifying’ prison bars

Pang, who opted to defend himself, read part of his submission to the court. He said despite having some fears, he would not simply let others accuse him of sedition.

“The most terrifying kind of metal is not bullets, or tear gas canisters, or water canon trucks – but prison bars,” Pang said.

Defendant Garry Pang. Photo: 牧師和你顛, screenshot via YouTube.

The preacher added what he said in court, or the videos he produced, aimed to point out the errors of the judiciary with a view to remedying such errors. He said it was not fair that such efforts were in turn used against him in “a legal battle over sedition.”

Sentencing request

After the magistrate announced he would hand down a verdict next Thursday, Pang asked if he could be sentenced on the same day if he were to be convicted. Pang said he had already been detained for more than six months and did not want to wait any longer.

He cited another case in which the defendant charged with the same offence but of higher severity was given a 7.5-month jail term, saying it would be unfair to make him wait even longer.

Cheng said he understood Pang’s concern and would try his best, but could not guarantee anything.

The case was adjourned to next Thursday, with Pang remaining in remand and Chiu granted bail.

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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.