Seventeen articles published by Stand News have been accepted as evidence for the prosecution by Judge Kwok Wai-kin, as the sedition trial against the shuttered Hong Kong news outlet continued on Tuesday.
Stand News’ parent company, its former editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen and former acting chief editor Patrick Lam, stand accused of conspiring to publish “seditious publications” under the colonial-era law. Chung and Lam appeared in District Court on Tuesday, while Best Pencil (Hong Kong) Limited, Stand News’ parent company, continued to have no representative.
The 17 allegedly seditious articles – published between July 7, 2020 and December 5, 2021 – included interviews with self-exiled or jailed pro-democracy politicians, commentaries by a veteran journalist, a news story on the anniversary of a 2019 protest inside the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and an article about human rights lawyer Chow Hang-tung honoured with the Prominent Chinese Democracy Activist award.
Kwok rejected an argument raised by the defence counsel Audrey Eu, who suggested that the six-month prosecution period for 10 of the 17 selected articles had expired. The judge said that the reasons behind his decision would be included in the judgement delivered at the end of the trial.
List of the 17 selected articles – Click to see
- Profile of Gwyneth Ho, a candidate in the 2020 legislative primaries held by the pro-democracy camp, published on July 7, 2020.
- Profile of Owen Chow, a candidate in the 2020 legislative primaries held by the pro-democracy camp, published on July 27, 2020.
- Profile of Fergus Leung, a candidate in the 2020 legislative primaries held by the pro-democracy camp, published on August 12, 2020.
- Commentary by Chan Pui-man, Apple Daily’s former associate publisher, criticising speech crimes, published on September 12, 2020.
- Commentary by Nathan Law, a former lawmaker now in self-exile, on “how to resist” under the national security law, published on September 20, 2020.
- Profile of Law on his “battlefront” of calling for sanctions on the Hong Kong government in the UK, published on December 9, 2020.
- Commentary by Law on “resilience in a chaotic world,” published on December 13, 2020.
- Feature interview with Ted Hui, a former lawmaker in self-exile, after he fled Hong Kong with his family, published on December 14, 2020.
- Feature interview with Baggio Leung, a former lawmaker in self-exile, as he called for sanctions on Hong Kong and a “lifeboat scheme for Hongkongers,” published on December 15, 2020.
- Commentary by Sunny Cheung, an activist in self-exile, responding to being wanted by the Hong Kong government, published on December 28, 2020.
- Commentary by Allan Au, a veteran journalist, on “new words in 2020,” which included “national security,” “disqualified” and “in exile,” published on December 29, 2020.
- Commentary by Au calling a national security trial a show, published on February 3, 2021.
- Commentary by Law paralleling the mass arrests of candidates in the democrats’ primaries to mass arrests during Taiwan’s white terror period, published on March 2, 2021.
- Commentary by Au accusing the authorities of “lawfare” in usage of the sedition law, published on June 1, 2021.
- Commentary by Au describing Hong Kong as a disaster scene after the implementation of national security law, published on June 22, 2021.
- Feature about CUHK graduates’ march on campus to mourn the second anniversary of the police-student clash in 2019, published on November 11, 2021.
- Report on Chow Hang-tung’s response to being honoured with the Prominent Chinese Democracy Activist award, published on December 5, 2021.
*The published dates of the articles were listed according to both the prosecutor’s opening statement and HKFP’s database.
The prosecution read out selected paragraphs from the 17 articles, including a commentary by veteran journalist Allan Au titled “Employing the sedition law as lawfare.” Au, who is currently on bail after being arrested in April for allegedly conspiring to publish seditious materials, was sitting in the public gallery as his words were read aloud.
Three of the articles included interviews with candidates who stood in primary elections organised by the pro-democracy camp in July 2020. Gwyneth Ho, Owen Chow and Fergus Leung were among the 47 prominent democrats arrested in connection with the polls and charged with conspiracy to commit subversion under the national security law.
Citing the interviewees’ quotes, Ng said they told the reporter that “police brutality has become the reality” and called the Legislative Council a “protest frontline,” adding that Ho’s interviewer “seemed to be agreeing with her political claims” in the article.
The prosecution also claimed that by publishing two other commentaries written by self-exiled former lawmaker Nathan Law and veteran journalist Allan Au, Stand News aimed to “demonise” the central and Hong Kong governments’ handling of the 12 Hongkongers who tried to flee the city via speedboat, only to be caught by the mainland Chinese coastguard, in August 2020.
Ng said that in interviews with self-exiled former lawmakers Nathan Law, Ted Hui and Baggio Leung, and one with activist Sunny Cheung, Stand News had embellished the overseas “radicals,” who called for international sanctions on Hong Kong, and had promoted their “radical political ideologies.”
The articles had also “glorified” the ex-politicians as “human rights fighters” who suffered from “survivors’ guilt,” the prosecution said.
Inciting hatred of the security law
The prosecution continued that six of the articles – including four commentaries written by Au, and two separate op-eds written by Law and Apple Daily’s former associate publisher Chan Pui-man – were “attacking and defaming” the national security law, the police, the Department of Justice and the Judiciary.
“Ever since its implementation, the national security law has been unfairly attacked, and is still being unreasonably defamed by foreign forces,” Ng said.
In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.
The last two articles were a feature story on CUHK’s November 12 clashes between protesters and police published on the second anniversary of the incident, and a news report about activist Chow Hang-tung being honoured with the Prominent Chinese Democracy Activist award.
Ng said Chung and Lam were responsible for editing the 17 articles, and were well aware that they were seditious as some of the articles had been removed by Stand News last May.
“All these articles could not have been published without their approval,” Ng said.
Ng also mentioned that Stand News had received an influx of donations during the protests and unrest in 2019, as its annual net income climbed from HK$6 million in 2018 to HK$80 million in 2019.
The prosecution will summon at least 36 witnesses and has submitted 275 exhibits as evidence, including the 17 articles and three Stand News videos. The trial is set to continue on Wednesday afternoon.
The anti-sedition legislation, which was last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still under British colonial rule, falls under the city’s Crimes Ordinance. It is separate from the Beijing-imposed national security law, and outlaws incitement to violence, disaffection and other offences against the authorities.
Non-profit online news outlet Stand News ceased operations last December after its newsroom was raided by more than 200 national security police officers. Seven people connected to the publication – including Chung and Lam – were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish seditious publications.
Chung and Lam have been remanded in custody for 10 months since their arrests.
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