A Portuguese man has been denied bail after he was accused of conspiring with other people to commit seditious acts through online posts, in breach of Hong Kong’s colonial-era sedition law.

Joseph John, 40, appeared at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts in front of Principal Magistrate Peter Law, one of the city’s handpicked national security judges, on Thursday.

west kowloon court
West Kowloon Law Courts Building. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

John is accused of “publishing, making available and/or continuing to make available statements and photos on Facebook, Internet website[s], Twitter, Instagram and Telegram” with seditious intent.

The 40-year-old allegedly intended to “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection” against the Central authorities and the Hong Kong government, to “excite inhabitants of Hong Kong to attempt to procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any other matter in Hong Kong as by law established,” to “incite persons to violence,” and/or to “counsel disobedience to law or to any lawful order.”

Law denied John’s application for bail, saying there were insufficient grounds for believing that he would not continue to commit acts endangering national security.

Although sedition, outlawed under the city’s Crimes Ordinance, is not part of the Beijing-imposed national security law, defendants still have to face the more stringent national security bail threshold.

The prosecution applied to adjourn the case for 12 weeks to allow police to conduct further investigations into John’s three smartphones and a laptop, and his personal bank account.

LAW Tak-chuen, Peter 羅德泉.JPG
Principal Magistrate Peter Law. Photo: Judiciary.

The defendant, who was said to work at the Royal College of Music in the UK, retained his right to review his bail in eight days, and will appear in court again on November 11. Law adjourned the case to January 26 next year.

National security police arrested John on Tuesday.

Police said on Wednesday he was linked to an organisation and allegedly published seditious posts on social media platforms on multiple occasions, launched crowdfunding campaigns to collect money for a military, and initiated petitions on the websites of foreign governments, urging them to deploy troops to promote Hong Kong’s independence.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.